How Sheikh bid failed first time

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How Sheikh bid failed first time

Postby leedshippriest on Tue Jul 17, 2012 9:03 pm


Published on Tuesday 17 July 2012 13:20

It was back in August 2003 that Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa first appeared on the radar at Leeds United – and the question scores of fans are now pondering is whether the Bahraini is the man behind the latest consortium planning to take over at Elland Road.

Sport is certainly in the blood of Al-Khalifa – a member of the ruling Bahraini family – with football and horse racing among his chief passions.

And nothing seemingly stirs his emotions quite like Leeds United, with a love affair born over four decades ago when Don Revie’s Super Leeds were the best team in the land and he was in private education in England.

Back in 2003, when he first expressed an interest in taking over United – in debt to the tune of £70m at the time – Al-Khalifa gushingly confirmed his passion for the club.

“I fell in love when Leeds played Chelsea in the 1970 FA Cup final,” he said. “Leeds mean everything to me, I was born to support them.

“Those who are closest to me, my friends and family, know what Leeds United mean to me.”

While his intent may have been genuine and his passion real, Al-Khalifa was destined not to take over at Elland Road, not then at least, with fans subsequently referring to him, in not exactly glowing terms, as the “Fake Sheikh”.

Yet after trying – and failing – to take over at United once, the name of Al-Khalifa is doing the rounds again with speculation abound that he is heading a Middle East-based consortium aiming to take control of the club.

The Bahraini Information Affairs Authority has confirmed to the Yorkshire Evening Post that any deal is nothing to do with any government department in the Gulf state, and is a strictly private deal – and private matter.

The spokesperson for the Bahraini IAA added that the individual mentioned – Al-Khalifa – was more likely to be in negotiations with financial investors but, as it was a private deal, there were no details at hand.

Al-Khalifa was believed to be in Europe last week, but was not understood to be available for comment.

It remains to be seen whether it’s a case of second time lucky for Al-Khalifa after failing to push through the deal in the winter of 2003-04, when he was touted as a buy-out saviour.

Whites fans were desperate to cling on to any semblance of hope at a time when the club were on the verge of financial meltdown following the much-publicised excesses of the Peter Ridsdale ‘spend, spend, spend’ era.

Al-Khalifa was the first individual to go public about his interest in December 2003, when the severity of the club’s financial position was starkly revealed.

United were on the market, with then chief executive Trevor Birch having an initial eight-week period to find outside investment to protect the club from going into administration and possible oblivion.

Several other consortia showed their hand, including one linked to former United deputy chairman Allan Leighton, busy working on plans with a City-based group of businessmen.

Al-Khalifa’s first job was to reject claims that he was looking to pick the club up on the cheap, while insisting to supporters he was desperate to see United survive.

The talk was that Al-Khalifa was heading a consortium of potential Middle Eastern investors, including two wealthy Saudi Arabians, having convinced them that Leeds were a good investment despite their high-profile debts.

They were big-hitting figures. Sheikh Mansour Salah Al Zamil, who owned oil and gas containers and storage businesses, plus steel and construction companies and huge land interests. And Sheikh Fahd bin Muhammed Al-Sudairi, a businessman connected to the Saudi Royal Family.

An initial £17m investment with further cash to follow was the talk on the grapevine, with United supporters eagerly anticipating an early Christmas present by way of new cash-rich owners.

To show he meant business, Al-Khalifa revealed to the YEP before the festive season that he had enlisted the services of renowned stockbrokers Brewin Dolphin and law firm Linklaters, while entering into advanced talks with the club.

He said: “It is very important that fans know I have the club at heart and my intentions are to move forwards because it looked like administration was just around the corner.

“We have a team working, negotiations (are) ongoing and a consortium ready if things go according to plan – and that is, I hope, to avoid administration.

“That is the main target, unlike some comments that said I was waiting for administration like a vulture. I am not a vulture; I am a fan and have suffered like all the fans have suffered and hope to help it work.”

But Christmas came and went and despite continued speculation and ongoing interest which saw Al-Khalifa touted as a £35m saviour, United officials continually stated that no bid or proof of funds had been received.

The YEP headline of January 16, 2004 read “Now show us your money” as club chiefs told prospective buyers to front up with an official bid.

But in the case of Al-Khalifa, nothing official transpired and his interest vanished into the sunset, with United fans hoping for more concrete developments this time around.

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