HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s powerbase on the boards of Sheffield United and its parent company Blades Leisure Limited remains unchanged following Selahattin Baki’s move to Fenerbahçe S.K.
Baki, who has been handed a position by the Turkish giants new chairman Ali Koç, resigned as a director of both the football club and BLL last year.
A week earlier, Yusuf Giansiracusa, a lawyer based in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, had been appointed to the SUFC and BLL boards while Prince Abdullah himself rejoined the latter. Giansiracusa, described as “my dear friend” by the Saudi royal during an interview with The Star, is thought to be playing a key role in the negotiations which could see his client buy-out fellow co-owner Kevin McCabe and gain full control of the Championship club.
The changes to United’s hierarchy were detailed in a filing to Companies House and reported on the organisation’s website at the time.
Prince Abdullah, who acquired 50 per cent of BLL in August 2013, served notice of his intention to purchase McCabe’s shareholding in January. The manoeuvre came “in response to a process” commenced by Sheffield United Limited, which is controlled by the Scarborough-based businessman’s family, and was believed to constitute a rival bid for power. Prince Abdullah also used a firm, 2018 UTB LLC, to counteract this measure and launch his own takeover attempt.
Although talks remain on-going, McCabe and Prince Abdullah handed Chris Wilder an extended contract last month and sanctioned the United manager’s recruitment budget for this summer’s transfer window. Giansiracusa has been pictured attending first team fixtures at Bramall Lane while two more of Prince Abdullah’s advisors, Saad Al-Lazeez and Abdullah Alghamdi, are now familiar faces around the stadium. Tareq Hawasli, another BLL and SUFC director, has also travelled to a number of games after being selected to represent Prince Abdullah’s interests.
Wilder sought and received assurances the uncertainty surrounding United’s ownership will not be allowed to affect his work before signing a deal until 2021. Talks are known to have taken place with a number of targets identified by the 50-year-old, his assistant Alan Knill and scouting guru Paul Mitchell.
Having previously served as Saudi Arabia’s General President of Youth Welfare, the Kingdom’s equivalent of Minister for Sport, Prince Abdullah’s attempt to become United’s sole-owner has inevitably raised questions about whether it could fit in with the Kingdom’s efforts to become a global football power.
Saudi Vision 2030, a plan designed to diversify the country’s economy, has called for the privatisation of clubs in the Saudi Professional League. Prince Abdullah is a former chairman of Al-Hilal, the reigning SPL champions.
Baki, a BLL director until 2017, used social media to announce he had been invited to join Fenerbahçe S.K by Koç, who was elected as the club’s chairman on Sunday. Baki helped persuade Fenerbahçe to play United in a pre-season friendly four years ago and was subsequently named their International Football Co-ordinator.