The fourth day of the high court battle between Sheffield United owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah has erupted into drama, as it was revealed that a £3m loan was granted to the club by a member of the Bin Laden family.
This stunning revelation came as McCabe’s cross-examination drew to a close at the High Court in London.
The case began on Monday, and is related to a long-term dispute between Sheffield United’s owners. Kevin McCabe is attempting to sell his 50% shares in the club, but believes that Prince Abdullah’s efforts to take these out of his hands are intentionally excluding the purchase of any property linked to the club.
Initial questioning from Prince Abdullah’s lawyer, Andreas Gledhill, indicated that McCabe was aware of the existence of the £3m loan, but according to emails sent between McCabe and former Blades vice-president Martin Green, McCabe believed Prince Abdullah would make any concerns about the loan would go away “with a wave of his magic wand.”
McCabe told Gledhill that he could not verify for certain whether this loan was a bribe to Prince Abdullah, but said that he knew that the source of the money was from the Bin Laden family. Gledhill then revealed that this had come up in emails from club director Jeremy Tutton, who had made a comment about a potential Sheffield Star headline of “Blades launder money for extremists”, which McCabe dismissed as “banter”.
Gledhill also addressed allegations that Prince Abdullah had accepted bribes while at Sheffield United, saying that McCabe had brought these up at a shareholders meeting in 2017, “in the hope that Prince Abdullah as a member of the Saudi Royal family wouldn’t have the bottle to give evidence in an English court.” This was denied by McCabe, who claimed that this may have been said by “someone else”.
Attention then turned to the 2018 appointment of Stephen Bettis as Chief Executive Officer of Sheffield United on a part-time basis. Gledhill brought up emails from McCabe during this time, stating that if investment fell through, “he would dictate terms on a ‘like it or not’ basis”, telling the court that this showed that McCabe intended to prise control of the club from Prince Abdullah.
Gledhill also mentioned the appointment of Andy Burke as Chief Operating Officer alongside Bettis, stating that Burke was a friend of McCabe’s son, despite the fact McCabe had claimed not to know him. McCabe denied meeting Burke, saying: “[McCabe] may have met Burke on matchdays but meets so many people at home games that [McCabe] is like a ‘blue a***d fly’.”
It was then alleged by Gledhill that Burke’s relationship with McCabe was not mentioned in an effort to remove Bettis, adding that McCabe had once referred to Burke as Sheffield United’s CEO to a third party. McCabe responded to this by saying that it was “impossible” for Bettis to work in the role on a part-time basis, due to him residing in Los Angeles.
The court then heard that McCabe had withheld Bettis’ pay and promoted him to the board, removing him as CEO. McCabe denied this had been done intentionally, but accepted that “he could’ve gone about it in a better way”, and stated that he had since apologised to Bettis for his prior behaviour.
Glenhill then told the court that McCabe had insisted that any new CFO would report to Andy Burke than Stephen Bettis, and had neglected to tell Prince Abdullah’s advisor, Yusuf Giansiracusa, of this in advance. McCabe stated that this “was a mistake” but it had been done “for the betterment of Sheffield United Football Club.”
The trial continues.