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Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

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Matt Slater | 17:25 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

It was, even by his standards, a remarkable outburst.

When Ken Bates took to the airwaves at Yorkshire Radio last week, most Leeds United fans listening in would have been expecting an account of how and why Bates had just become the club's new owner.

What they got was a tirade about international enemies in the media, troublemakers in Parliament, stirrers in positions of authority in football and double-agents lurking within Elland Road.

There was some sugar in this bitter brew, though. Bates confirmed work had started on new toilets in the West Stand - "very significant for those who want them there". Well, even Radio Moscow used to finish on an upbeat note about tractor production.

So what provoked Bates' ire? Who are these troublesome agitators? And didn't Bates already own United?

To answer those questions we will need to enter the sports news vaults but, in the interest of brevity, I am going to start in January 2005 when Bates completed his first purchase of Leeds United.

Leeds won their final match of the season against QPR and finished seventh in the Championship. Photo: Getty Images

Leeds won their final match of the season against QPR and finished seventh in the Championship. Photo: Getty Images

The 2001 Champions League semi-finalists were grimly surviving in the Championship, still nursing a hangover from Peter Ridsdale's "living the dream" tenure and without much family silver left to sell. The Gerald Krasner-led board was almost as exhausted as the team and the club was ripe for plucking. Bates was the plucker.

The man who sold Chelsea to Roman Abramovich for a reported £17m in 2003, paid a reported £10m for a 50% stake at Elland Road via his Cayman Islands-registered company Forward Sports Fund (FSF).

United's fortunes on the field picked up and they went into the 2006 play-offs as favourites. A return to their rightful station was in sight. And then they lost 3-0 to Watford.

The following season was a disaster and United were relegated to the third tier for the first time. To rub salt in the wound, they went down in administration.

What followed was a summer of shenanigans as the taxman threatened to pull the plug while suitors hovered at the end of the sickbed, mindful that a United absolved from debt could be a healthy proposition. Pity about the creditors, mind.

One of those creditors, however, was not too upset as it announced it would forget the £17.6m United owed - half of the club's total debts - if, and only if, the administrators accepted the bid from former owners FSF, with Bates back as chairman.

That creditor was a British Virgin Islands-registered firm called Astor Investment Holdings and it had, we were assured, no connection to Bates or FSF, who had no link with each other.

When asked during a 2009 libel trial why Astor would place such a condition on writing off this sum, Bates could only "presume" it was because Astor wanted to loan United more money. After all, those first loans had gone so well.

Anyway, Bates was back. Two more painful years passed for the faithful - with two more play-off disappointments - before Jermaine Beckford's goals and Simon Grayson's leadership finally got United back to where Bates found them, the Championship.

Much had changed, though, in five years: football's Wild West era was over and, post-Pompey, the authorities were far less tolerant of opaque ownership structures.

So when it became clear last summer that the Premier League was pushing the Football League to match its new-found zeal for accountability and transparency, there was only one "ownership statement" out of the 72 anybody wanted to read.

And when it came, 48 hours before the rules changed, it was a beauty. Leeds United FC was owned by Leeds City Holdings (LCH), which was majority-owned by FSF, which was owned by three "discretionary trust funds", which were legally owned and managed by Chateau Fiduciaire (CF), a Swiss-based "trustee". Still with me?

The beneficiaries of these funds were anonymous and could "only be identified by the potential nature of any benefit". We were assured, however, that no potential beneficiary or their immediate family had the rights to more than 10% of FSF's shares in LCH.

To actually know this, though, we would have to see the trust documents. Fat chance.

To complete the conundrum, the whole vehicle was steered by two management shares, issued by CF, to Patrick Murrin, a long-time business partner of Bates, and Patrick Boatman, a "client manager" at CF, on behalf of Bates.

So, just to recap, Leeds United were owned by three off-shore trusts (constructed to keep their shareholders anonymous) and controlled by a faceless company whose raison d'etre was to preserve anonymity for its clients. But Bates was in charge.

Bates has not revealed details of how he became the controlling shareholder of Leeds United. Photo: Getty Images

Bates has not revealed details of how he became the controlling shareholder of Leeds United. Photo: Getty

When I asked Fiona Button, a company law expert, to explain this, she said: "It's a complex web and I'm surprised there have not been more demands for clearer answers."

She wasn't the only one.

While this exercise in obfuscation might have satisfied the Football League, the Premier League was unimpressed and signalled its intent to take a different view of the ownership mystery should the club ever fall under its auspices again.

With the season now over we know this reunion has been postponed but the PL has other ways of acting beyond the Pale, namely the threat to withhold "trickledown" payments from its TV deals.

But Bates was also taking flak from a House of Commons XI - otherwise known as the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee - and the persistent questioning of a few dogged journalists led by The Guardian's David Conn.

Much to Bates' disgust, these malcontents seemed to be aided by sections of the Elland Road crowd, in particular the Leeds United Supporters Club and the positively treacherous Yorkshire Division of the Football Supporters' Federation. Splitters!

Dairy farmer, tax exile, fencing expert...say what you like about Bates, and many have, but underestimate his capacity to surprise at your peril.

Faced with mounting demands to reveal who really owned Leeds United, the 79-year-old answered: I do.

The way he told it to Yorkshire Radio, Bates did this to spare the sensitivities of those poor public servants in Geneva - "they were getting a bit fed up because all they do is run trusts, they don't get involved with politics or anything" - and it was all resolved in a matter of weeks.

"It neatly solves the problem and it leaves the trouble-makers with something else to think about, (especially) David Conn, our international enemy in the media, who's been told to go forth and multiply," he explained.

How much he paid, how he financed the deal, who received the payment (those mysterious beneficiaries of the discretionary trusts) and many, many more questions went unasked, probably because they would not have been answered. Outro Ltd, the club's new holding company, is based in Nevis, another Caribbean island long on beaches but short on banking regulations.

Does any of this matter, though?

As United fans reflect on just falling short of the play-offs, I suppose there will be many who just don't care about tax avoidance tactics or the authorities' efforts to avoid "another Pompey". And that is fine.

But what if the Premier League really did withhold TV money? What if it blocked United's promotion?

How about if Uefa, unable to clarify that United's owners had no influence over any other clubs, refused to let United play in Europe?

What if the club became the subject of an anti-corruption investigation due to fears over conflicts of interest or suspicious betting patterns?

And is it really so onerous a burden to expect owners of a much-loved community asset, such as your football club, to put their names above the door? Aren't they proud of the fact and if not why not?

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  • Comment number 1.

    Never heard of Darren Beckford!

  • Comment number 2.

    Darren Beckford, really?

  • Comment number 3.

    All very interesting Matt but nothing I haven't heard or read 5 or 6 times before. Oh and last time I checked it was Jermaine Beckford, you know plays for Everton now!

  • Comment number 4.

    What a surprise, first 3 comments are people moaning. So irritating that the majority of blogs on here become arenas for people to whine, just grow up.

    Good blog Matt although you should have stuck the knife in a bit more as David Conn has done. Amazing what Bates has got away with at such a big club.

  • Comment number 5.

    Darren Beckford, wasn't he at Oldham when they were in the Prem back in the 90's??.......LEARN SOME FOOTBALL HISTORY......or am I old and White87 is young!?

  • Comment number 6.

    If you can't get the name of a striker who's now playing in the Premier League correct, why should I bother reading the rest of your article?

  • Comment number 7.

    God i wish we still had Darren Beckford !!!!

  • Comment number 8.

  • Comment number 9.

    Matt, you need to get your Darren Beckford error corrected pronto, since your blog is meant to be an accurate journalistic assessment of the 'facts' regarding Leeds...

  • Comment number 10.

    Its time they brought in a rule that any football club directors (or any business for that matter) who's club go into administration are banned from involvement in football for a long time. That'll stop serial rule benders such as Bates, Gould, Gaydamak, Ridsdale & Mandaric ruining any more clubs.

    Mind you, if they took all the crooks out of football clubs, there'd only be half a dozen left. ;)

  • Comment number 11.

    Indeed I am quite young Sladey, the 87 is a bit of a giveaway. I was just picking up on a bit of sloppy journalism.

    What are your thoughts on Aidy White?

  • Comment number 12.

    Darren Beckford was once Norwich's record signing when he joined the club for £925000 from Port Vale in June 1991.

    An interesting article... but do we really care if someone might own Leeds and also say Gillingham?

    Now all we need is Killa and Johnson to resign and we can start getting ready for next season. Paynter! Another chance maybe! He can only improve but JERMAINE he isn't. Yet!

  • Comment number 13.

    Name me one Leeds fan who didn't think Bates owned it in the first place?!

    Say what you want about Bates, but he took a club knee deep in debt and be it by hook or by crook got us out of that situation!

  • Comment number 14.

    Regardless of Beckford's first name, I think the issues at the heart of this article are worth comment.

    Should the ownership of a sporting club be transparent and if not, what are the implications?

    Firstly, I would suspect that the ultimate ownership of the club being overseas might be related to Bates' non-resident tax status. Not quite sure, but I think there is a relevance in that albeit it has probably eroded given government legislation on non-domiciled individuals.

    Secondly, if the relevant bodies (Football League, Premier League) require details of ownership for sporting reasons, it is also necessary that those ownership details are made public? Surely, as long as those bodies themselves are satisfied that there is no conflict of interest then that should be enough.

    Of course, all these technical issues do not take into account the fans. Unfortunately though, I don't think the interests of the fans are that relevant when it comes to satisfying regulation. It's a shame on a romantic level but I think that is the reality of the situation.

    Overall though, a football club is like any other business and as long as it complies with, for example, the Companies Act 2006 and the relevant tax laws (mainly Corporation Tax Acts then what is there to say.

  • Comment number 15.

    Very good until the last bit (and Darren).

    Now that the club is 72% owned by one person, Ken Bates, who definitely has no connection with any other club, via one brand new organisation, Outro Limited, what is the basis of the last few questions?

    Bates has negated those questions by gaining ownership. The issue is not the current shareholding, but whethr he actually did have ownership while claiming in court and to the Football League he did not.

    But no-one will ever know now, given the shady and secretive negotiations between various off-shore companies, so it's all a bit passé really.

  • Comment number 16.

    Leeds should be forced to come clean or get out.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    So Matt, we have heard this story numerous times from numerous people and this provides no additional information let alone any constructive analysis. So far, so poor.

    However, how about making a lot of noise about affairs at Plymouth or detailed analysis of Portsmouth [who still seem largely unfunded] for starters.

    Frankly if there is no evidence of money laundering - and after this time if there was one would expect someone would have come up with something - or non-payment of creditors, employees or etc - and again I am sure there would be somone shouting if there were - what does all this matter.

    It seems Bates is now owner - and since I have seen nothing to suggest he himself is unacceptable to the FL, the FA or the PL - then presumably that can be the end of the matter and we can get back to talking about why Leeds failed again to make good on early and mid-season promise.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good article, if nothing new

    Get the feeling the "Darren Beckford" thing is a possible in joke - sure Leeds fans have joked about this before. A bit like "Max Grabble"

    Bates is indeed a plucker!

  • Comment number 20.

    #17 stracepipe

    In regards to the allegations that weren't acted upon, the flip side is that perhaps the whiff of allegation was more palatable than any truth that might have had to be revealed in the event of litigation.

  • Comment number 21.

    Very interesting blog Matt. Ken Bates gives me the creeps. It'd be easy to believe almost any allegation levelled at him. Maybe he's just had a really bad press (and is correct about enemies in the media).

    I hope Leeds can get themselves back in shape and can return to the top league (preferably without KB).

  • Comment number 22.

    I thought this was a really good read, everyone knows Ken Bates has always had his hand in leeds but a lot of this I didn't know. Good article Mcnulty should take some pointers from you.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think Bates needs to pull his finger out and fix this situation because without doubt, the FA will find a way in future to punish teams for these things. The reasons for these multiple companies or trusts, if you want to call them that are to keep the names anonymous? I find that a little strange, if that is the case, then why do they want to remain anonymous? Seems a little bit far-fetched.

    I don't claim to know anything about this and even after reading your article, I am still unclear but this is perhaps the problem - it should be clear to people as this is how dodgy deals are hidden.

  • Comment number 24.

    Ref #16......Leeds have never been "clean"..............I remember the seventies! Dirtiest side I've ever seen.

  • Comment number 25.

    My goodness Leeds fans are boring. Bates has a history of very strange dealings (as outlined by Matt) and your only concern is that he gets a name wrong (once!).

    What pathetic people you are

  • Comment number 26.

    So Bates has been outed (Outro? - does he have a sense of humor) and we should all be pleased that pressure has been put on him to 'put his name over the door', because, finally the buck can now only stop with Bates over future investment.

    Bates is now on borrowed time. No more excuses Ken - put your hand in your pocket and spend some money to get the club back into the Premier League and make sure we stay there. Given his track record though I don't see that happening. I just can't see him investing in players - I get the feeling he has little time for them (see this seasons comments about Johnson and McCartney).

    My only hope is that he wants to leave some sort of legacy and sets up the handover to new owners in such a way that the clubs does progress.

    Over to you Ken - make it happen you old curmudgeon.

  • Comment number 27.

    #26 Saint Michael (of Caversham)

    Whilst you need to invest to grow, isn't one of the good things about Bates at Leeds is that he is not going to let the club go into the red and end up down the route that Ridsdale took and where Chelsea might have gone?

  • Comment number 28.

    Bates is undoubtedly a shrewd business man and whilst I might not agree with his methods he seems to have got Leeds back on their feet which is something quite a few people seemed unable to do.

  • Comment number 29.

    Poor article... nothing new, nothing interesting and you sound like a bitter journalist trying to stoke up the fire for others to continue, clearly you don't like Leeds and/or Bates and possibly bare a grudge.
    Would you have the courage to challenge the ownership of the big Prem clubs, most of whom have very complex issues way beyond the Leeds scenario which journalists will never be able to unravel, understand or put a stop to.
    I think some Prem club owners would do more than stick two fingers up at the journalists like Bates does if they publicly asked questions about how they organise their affairs!
    Can we have some interesting football news please?

  • Comment number 30.

    Leeds fans are a bitter, paranoid bunch on the basis of this thread. Bizarre.

  • Comment number 31.

    where has the Delph money gone and if he can afford to buy the club why has he put no money in?

  • Comment number 32.

    #27 MrBB

    Who mentioned red? I said invest not gamble. It seems to me that the simple question to Ken is - why did you buy Leeds?

  • Comment number 33.

    Very poor article. How can anyone call this credible when the guy can't even get Jermaine Beckford's name correct is beyond me.

    It's similar to stuff you read in the Guardian, apart from the fact that this guy is sucking up lots of licence payers money to write rubbish like this. Matt, get your facts correct before spouting southern non-sense.

  • Comment number 34.

    #29 konchelski

    If I give someone money I have a right to question if the product I've bought is fit for purpose.

  • Comment number 35.

    alwoodleywhite - 'southern non-sense'. Seriously, that's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read. You're enormously paranoid.

  • Comment number 36.

    Surely the deal to Abramovich was £17m + debts, not just £17m. With debts at the time of £100m+, that would come to nearer £120 million.

  • Comment number 37.

    #32 Saint Michael (of Caversham)

    Any investment is a gamble isn't it? If you invest in players that are 'better' than the other clubs in the division but this investment does not get Leeds promoted, then is that investment sustainable?

    If Bates is indeed running Leeds as a self sufficient business then kudos to him. Look higher up the tree and there aren't many clubs that do not make losses and don't have debts. Stoke City is a good example. They cut their cloth according to their means and this gives sustainable business model.

  • Comment number 38.

    Darren Beckford, Jermaine Backford, Karl Beckford, old uncle Tom Cobley and all Beckford...NOT THE POINT.

    You "should bother reading the rest of your article" General Craig, because it points out the only circumstances in which Leeds's exit from administration in 2007 would have been legal.

    MrBlueBurns points out that if a football club has complied with the law, what else is there to say? The point here is that the "IF" is a big one...possibly the size of Bates' ego, if you can imagine such a mass.

    It might be instructive, for instance, to take a good look at the activities "Astor Investment Holdings" before they became Leeds' main creditors, and since. Go on.

    Bates might want this issue to go away. It won't.

  • Comment number 39.

    #36 hudjer

    Irrelevant. Bates bought the club for £1 and walked away with £17m.

  • Comment number 40.

    #33 All wood

    Sounds to me like you're two of the monkeys. Hear nothing, see nothing. Matt has got his facts right (save Beckford). Ken's a player from the top drawer and he takes our money because he knows we're addicted to the club. Why shouldn't we and others question what he does with it and what intentions he has for the club?

  • Comment number 41.

    Clearly he has used these 'trusts' to shaft the taxman who was a major creditor when they were in administration. I don't doubt that the fact he is now the declared owner will re-ignite HMRC's interest in the £7 million they were owed but ended up getting 1% of.

    You can be sure the tabloid hacks will be licking their lips at the prospect of getting one over him!

    The bottom line is he'll spend as little as possible in trying to get them up and if successful will sell for a huge profit if he hasn't been fingered by then.

  • Comment number 42.

    We should know who owns our clubs.

    Our club had its shares in the stadium it played in transfered away from the club and this was not found out for quite a while. The shares have not as yet been returned to the club.

    A few years ago the local rugby club had issues with owner being more interested in the property and the public house than they were in the club.

    In both cases knowing who owned the club allowed some form of pressure from the public that helped rectify the situation in the favour of the fans.

    Do we want a dictator from another country taking over one of our clubs or some other person with a dubious record in charge of our sporting gems? I don't think so.

  • Comment number 43.

    Thank God for Ken Bates!! I don't care what anyone says about him. Fact is, Leeds are debt free and stable, (unlike the majority of clubs in England), and are progressing on and off the pitch. Moan all you want, but KB is a very smart cookie indeed, and football would be very dull without guys like him. Keep up the good work Ken.

  • Comment number 44.

    #37 mrBB

    You've made my point - haven't Stoke City invested? I'm all ears to hear Ken's sustainable business model - just as long as it's sustained in the Prem - oh, and the footy's worth watching....

  • Comment number 45.

    Leeds...Leeds...weren't they a "big club" once?

    Or did I dream it?

  • Comment number 46.

    I've supported Leeds for over 40 years and couldn't care less who owns my club! People need to remember if it wasn't for Ken Bates we might not even have a club to support....more power to your elbow Ken!


  • Comment number 47.

    #44 Saint Michael (of Caversham)

    But Stoke didn't invest beyond their means. Of course, Leeds are a bigger brand and should be able to generate more from the turnstiles than Leeds and what should follow.

  • Comment number 48.

    Afternoon all. Anyway, as I was saying about that Jermaine Beckford....

    Old age, happens to us all, though

    Or is that more 'southern non-sense'?

  • Comment number 49.

    I fully understand why the owner(s) of Leeds would not want to admit it,ha ha ha.....but on a more serious note does anything not more truly reflect the stinky dealings of the business world that such a simple matter should be mired in offshore trusts,tax havens and well paid lawyers. The footballing fraternity could do away with this in an instant by basic transparency rules made for the benefit of the fans not some tax exile or despotic sheik. Unfortunately money not only talks it sticks its hand in that place best known to ventriloquists dummies around the world.

  • Comment number 50.

    #47 mrBB

    Show me where I said invest beyond your means?

    But back to the point - Ken needs to deliver, for us and not just for himself.

  • Comment number 51.

    Ken Bates has found his rightful home at Leeds.

  • Comment number 52.

    #48 Matt Slater

    Quoting an error in the Daily Mail, of all rags! Look at the caption on the picture in that article.

  • Comment number 53.

    #50 Saint Michael (of Caversham)

    Hey, I don't want to get carried away on a little point. However, #26 'No more excuses Ken - put your hand in your pocket and spend some money to get the club back into the Premier League and make sure we stay there' implies that investment is a magic bullet.

    What I'm saying is that Bates could invest all that is possible within the finances available and that may still not be enough to make sure of anything and it would not be an excuse if Bates pointed this out.

  • Comment number 54.

    Fit and Proper persons test: This applies to all football clubs, Premier and Football League, and I wonder if Ken Bates would actually pass it? When Leicester were taken over at the start of this season, the Football League took over two months to complete this with transparent ownership a major criteria.
    How can Bates, through Outro, manage this by a simple announcement. Something smells very fishy to me and if the maize of offshore trusts is true, where's the transparency there? He should either come clean or get out of football, he's already made more than enough money FROM the game, via Oldham Athletic (in the late 60s), Chelsea and now Leeds.

  • Comment number 55.

    This is simply a demonstration of how rich people with expensive tax accountants can avoid paying tax. It happens all the time and HMRC is powerless to do anything about it. People are only interested in this particular case because it has something to do with football. Why do we even have tax havens other than to protect the ultra rich? Expect nothing at all to happen about this soon.

  • Comment number 56.

    #55 mightywhite99

    What lazy journalism have you been reading or what dodgy understanding do you have of these things?

    Not 'rich' people could employ 'expensive tax accountants' if they want but the sums at stake do not make it commercially viable to do anything.

    'HMRC is powerless'? Rubbish. Have you seen the Revenue's Exchange of Information instruments that they are signing up with an increasing number of countries? Are you aware that HMRC only implements the law, it does not make the law.

    It is a basic principle of tax planning that people are allowed to organise their affairs in a way which minimises their tax bill.

    You seem to be quoting what I would refer to as the politics of jealousy. Of course, you could be a fervent socialist or communist for all I know.

  • Comment number 57.

    People are very quick to jump on the anti-Leeds bandwagon with little justification.

    In relation to this article, I would say that as a Leeds fan I would rather we had a supporter of the club was who was honest and open about their business dealings as Chairman, but alas we make do with what we have. The main priority is to make sure we never spiral into overspending on wages and transfer fees that our league position doesn't warrant. Honestly I thought the team was better before Ridsdale signed large cheques for players were didn't need and were over priced. A club should be built around a handful of key players and players who have come through the Youth Academy, in my opinion. Leeds have produced a number of quality players of the last 10-15 years (slightly slower over the last 5 admittedly) and our team should be built with that philosophy. We want a strong chairman who is going to say no to signing cheques if it would jeopardise the financial stability of the club. That said, I'm not sure Ken Bates would put is hand in his pocket to lend you bus fare if it was raining. Time may prove me wrong.

    Everyone loves to tell a Leeds fan that Leeds were dirty in the 70s, I wasn't there I didn't see it first hand, but from what I have seen a lot of teams were 'physical'. Chelsea were one of those teams, Ron "Chopper" Harris being an individual that springs to mind. Nothing wrong with building a 'strong' team, just look at Chelsea against Man United at the weekend, they were using their physical strength to put Man United off playing their game. That to me seems like the same thing.

  • Comment number 58.

    //Bates was the plucker//

    How Matt must have chortled to himself over that line.

    Just another dig at Leeds that we Leeds fans have listened to ad nauseum over the last forty years.Lots of innuendo but little fact.In case it may have escaped people the vast majority of Leeds fans cannot pick the owner of the club.Fan ownership would be great if anyone would set that up but until then we follow our club whoever the owner is because it's in the blood.

  • Comment number 59.

    "Well, even Radio Moscow used to finish on an upbeat note about tractor production. "

    "After all, those first loans had gone so well."

    These snide comments make it sound like you have an agenda here Matt. I'm not saying you do but I feel they are unnecessary for the piece.

  • Comment number 60.

    Not being a Leeds fan I havent taken an interest in the shenanigans going on under Bates, but as a Liverpool supporter I do know a thing or two about shady owners.

    There is no doubt that Ken Bates is unfit to own a footy club. When Abramovich bought chelski they were insolvent. Bates record at chelski was entirely negative to the outside world and here he is at another famous club, up to his usual shady tricks.

    The leeds fans should be doing what Liverpool fans did to Hicks and Gillett. Make their lives uncomfortable by all legal means possible.

    I have little hope for Leeds if the comments from the supporters on here seem to want to correct Darren/Jermaine Beckford, rather than put the boot in to an owner who brings their club into disrepute.

  • Comment number 61.

    Classic Retort Matt!! I for one appreciate the irony...:)

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    Good to see the media putting pressure on him. Hopefully you might get some answers, but it's unlikely. The reason David Conn has been branded the "international media enemy" is because he has hammered away relentlessly and has not been intimidated by the threats of his paper being banned from ER. It's sad to see our local media spouting the party line, not asking questions etc.

    Almost all Bates interviews are done via the utterly sycophantic Yorkshire Radio, with a likely prepared set of "Yes Mr Chairman" questions. It's sad to see really. There should be rules allowing media access, but then it doesn't help that the media doesn't complain where this is denied (see Alex Ferguson).

    Apart from "Darren Beckford" a well written and fair article. Hopefully you don't mind it when Mr Bates repeatedly criticises you via the (I hesitate to say due to accurate definition) media, and tells you you aren't welcome at Elland Road.

  • Comment number 64.

    Clearly lots to discuss here, and not just Port Vale great Darren Beckford. Sadly, I've got to take two lads to the swings. Might have to buy them lollies, too.

    I will post some proper replies this evening.

    As for Wildorange1970 (18), please tell me you are joking when you ask why haven't I made any noise about Plymouth or Portsmouth?!? I have dreams about those two clubs.

  • Comment number 65.

    bates did a great job at chealsea he needs to get checkbook out nor though

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    MrBlueBurns, the lads are my's my day off. I'll assume you were joking, though, and not lose my temper over your crass remark. And who am I taking the mick out of apart, perhaps, from Ken Bates (who I'm sure can take it and may not, as a Monaco resident, actually pay my wages at all)?

  • Comment number 68.

    Oh dear, re #66. What's good for the goose is not good for the gander eh?

  • Comment number 69.

    At No 60

    Look at it from your own point of view. At least you knew who owned the club, and what the outcome of ousting them would be. God knows what will happen if what has happened is taken out of the paper-trail avoiding tax havens and into the public domain.

    Most Leeds fans would rather he just sold the club and went back to Monaco to live out his days there. I'd rather that than have more investigations and the kind of stress we went through during the laughably mishandled/manipulated pre-pack administration we were put through in 2007.

  • Comment number 70.


  • Comment number 71.

    Now that the financial world are fully aware who own Leeds United [ shock horror ]
    I wonder how long it will be before a billionaire now comes in with a bid for Leeds.
    Could this be why Mr Bates has gone public?

  • Comment number 72.

    I don't understand why fans of other clubs would take any interest in this story, I certainly don't care about how other clubs are run/ who owns them etc. As a Leeds supporter I have been frustrated at the lack of transparency from Ken, but as several fellow supporters have already said he picked the club up when all anyone else was interested in was pushing us over the edge. The club has most certainly progressed over the last 3 to 4 seasons, when you have experienced the lows of the 'Risdale era' it is very difficult to criticise what Ken Bates is doing at the club.

    Here's to further progress next season Ken.

  • Comment number 73.

    Now that the club is 72% owned by one person, Ken Bates, who definitely has no connection with any other club, via one brand new organisation, Outro Limited, what is the basis of the last few questions?

    Question is who owns the other 28%?

  • Comment number 74.

    Always found the modern game development of owners/chairmen hopping from one club to the next to be a bit distasteful. How can they pretend to be a fan of one club, sell up and then pitch up as the saviour of a rival club? We've had Bates buy Chelsea for a quid and then Leeds; Ridsdale at Leeds, Barnsley, Cardiff and Plymouth; Mandaric at Portsmouth, Leicester and now Sheffield Wednesday for another quid. The list goes on. Do you fans change your footballing allegiance so regularly? I think not. Don't thank them, just tolerate them and hope they leave your club in a better state than when they took over.

  • Comment number 75.

    Football club owners would do well to remember that they are the very privileged landlord of a club actually owned by its supporters because without them the club wouldn't exist. For that reason alone, football supporters deserve transparency - they deserve to know who they are financing through the turnstiles and who owns their club, purchased with what funds?

    The problem is football's finances are so out of touch with reality UEFA and Platini need to grasp the nettle before it is too late. They can start by making sure the financial restrictions they are placing on clubs for the coming season, actually work and they don't give in to threats from the major clubs.

    However, there is one area of activity which would make an immediate difference. Transfer fees should be paid 100% cash on day one, instead of the present system of payment over a period of time. If a club such as Portsmouth then gets its proverbial knickers in a twist, at least the football community can't claim preferential treatment with regards to monies owed to them by other clubs and local business people would then benefit even in some small way, from any creditors' settlement.

    This would also concentrate the minds of the buying club and if a 23 player rule was brought in for domestic football changeable only in January, with a small number of these players to under a certain age, it would just be the beginning of getting football's finances back in order.

    Gone off the track a little here but anything which works towards transparency and forces pains in the derrier such as Mr. Bates to come clean, then its good for the football supporters, who I said right at the top, are the real owners of their clubs.

  • Comment number 76.

    Very interesting article, and does well to explain some of the absurd intricacies in ownership of some football clubs. Realistically, would anyone expect anything less from Ken? I recall from when he was chairman at Chelsea that he seemed to have every trick up his sleeve. A brilliant businessman, because he knew every loop hole... brilliant chairman, ermmm nope. And the rant on the radio? That really is even more Ken than all the dodgy ownership stuff... His programme notes in the Chelsea programme were weekly rants about who was anti the club. Now that he formally owns the club will Leeds fans be treated to that now? Or have they already? Or have they been treated to it by Bates, but while he has remained anonymous?

  • Comment number 77.

    As a Leeds supporter, after the fact of my club being owned by Ken, what concerns me most is the lack of transparency in the whole thing. Why - apart obviously from tax reasons - do you need the clubs ownership to be based offshore?

    But, then when I think about all of the other companies in this country - many of whom I spend my hard earned cash with - who also play this same merry little dance with the taxman - Tesco, Google, etc. I'm thinking of you here! Then what Ken is doing doesn't seem as bad.

    How many other football clubs in this country are actually owned by companies in offshore / tax havens Matt?

    Having said that I'll still be a very happy white the on day that Ken sells up though. As long as it's not to Abramovich! :o)

  • Comment number 78.

    Most people knew that Ken Bates owned the club all along and that he had used mysterious means to buy it back after wiping out the debts. What I find interesting is that the web of companies is so easily traced back to him.

    You're probably not able to answer this question for legal reasons Matt (I shall try to word it in a way that avoids anything libellous), but ignoring any moral issues over tax and creditors losing their money, is it conceivable that English laws have been broken in the course of Leeds United going into administration and then coming out and being bought in such a manner?

  • Comment number 79.

    This reminds me of that old poem, "What a tangle web we weave when we set out to deceive"!!

    Why all this blatant deception? What is there to hide? If Bates is embarrassed to admit the truth there is no place for him in football. It only brings the game into disrepute.

  • Comment number 80.

    Bates will sell if/when Leeds get promotion ot the Premiership, seeking a tidy profit...when did investment funds ever invest in anything other than to make a profit?

    The question is then where will the money go, to Bates, or to whoever funded Bates?...perhaps he just so happens to owe the investment trusts exactly the same amount as they had invested, secured by a charge over the shares?

  • Comment number 81.

    There are a lot of issues surrounding Bates' ownership of Leeds, and from my own area of interest as a Leeds fan most of them relate to the future, not the past. Most fans seem to have been pretty sure it was Bates anyway, and that may lead to some interesting point arising given past legal issues as to how easy they will be to explain away. Either Leeds fans are very perceptive, or events have just caught up with perception. What is interesting however is the levels of investment in the squad. We are constantly told profits are above forecast levels, and yet investment in the playing squad seems low. Many clubs with far smaller fanbases and far lower income have been able to remain viable while spending a bit of cash, so why not Leeds? Leeds fans are an intensely loyal bunch, and frankly I think Bates had seen us coming. Most Leeds fans accepted before Christmas that unless the defence was tightened we would struggle. This has remained the case and there have been precious few real attempts to remedy this except a few short term loan patches. Now this means that either Grayson doesn't see there's a problem and hasn't asked for cash (which seems highly unlikely) or the money that is being put into the club by the fans is disappearing into Mr Bates' bank account, all the while while claiming that as a non-paid Chairman he was simply doing the club a favour. Not going to be so easy to explain now...

  • Comment number 82.

    bates is a no good cockney so-so and will never be any good to leeds i wish he wud wee--wee off the t--t

  • Comment number 83.

    not sure about the quality of the research on this, BUT

    How much debt do Leeds carry compared to any of the top 6 in the prem.
    Now who has "fit and proper" persons in charge.

    and personally I didnt miss Darren much this season

  • Comment number 84.


    As far as can be made out, the other 27.15% of Leeds City Holdings is split between Outram Ventures Ltd (BVI), Donald Manasse (Monaco), Homer Trust (Geneva) and Halton Sports Limited (unknown).


  • Comment number 85.

    27. At 13:15pm 10th May 2011, MrBlueBurns wrote:
    #26 Saint Michael (of Caversham)

    Whilst you need to invest to grow, isn't one of the good things about Bates at Leeds is that he is not going to let the club go into the red and end up down the route that Ridsdale took and where Chelsea might have gone?


    You mean bankruptcy which is where Bates had them headed before Abramovic took over

  • Comment number 86.

    Jermaine Beckham wasn't it ? Owned by three different anonymous Agents perhaps, who are all owned collectively by a fourth, who is really owned by a Bank who is owned by another Bank, and so on... ad nauseum.

  • Comment number 87.

    I don't understand why Leeds fans take this article and others I've read as an attack on their club. It's quite the opposite. We've all lost out via HMRC but you fans are being fleeced twice over.

    I'm sure both Matt and David Conn (who astonishingly also gets grief from some Leeds fans) know or suspect considerably more than they blog and what I'd really like is for someone to report as much as they can possibly substantiate and invite Mr Bates to sue them. That would be most interesting. Although we wouldn't want another mistake made on oath of course...

  • Comment number 88.

    86. At 16:53pm 10th May 2011, Mike Logan wrote:
    Jermaine Beckham wasn't it ? Owned by three different anonymous Agents perhaps, who are all owned collectively by a fourth, who is really owned by a Bank who is owned by another Bank, and so on... ad nauseum.

    almost like playing a dude whose playing a dude disguised as another dude.

    The Tropic Thunder approach to football ownership

  • Comment number 89.

    " At 13:34pm 10th May 2011, MrBlueBurns wrote:
    #36 hudjer

    Irrelevant. Bates bought the club for £1 and walked away with £17m."

    No fan of Bates, but he bought Chelsea for £1 and took over the debts of £8million.

    How he was allowed to get away with what he did is a mystery. Leeds didn't come out of the CVA to the League's satisfaction but were given their league share for a further points deduction (having manipulated things so the original points deduction didn't affect them) whilst other clubs have ended up going down the divisions, Boston United for one,for similar things. Yet the self-pitying Leeds fans wail that everyone was nasty to them and biased against Leeds United. It tkaes some sort of person to arrange things so that organisations like the St John's Ambulance and a local hospice get paid pennies in the £ to ensure continued control of a club and spending millions later.

  • Comment number 90.

    As Wayne Fountain posted, most of us don't care who or what owns the club, as long as we have a club to support, because it's in the blood.

    As for KB, I'm in the minority, that I know, but I will forever see him as some form of legend for saving LUFC and getting us heading in the right direction without spending silly amounts of money.

    We've spent next to nothing since League One, and we pushed all the way for promotion, I'd be quite happy to sign freebies again because I believe the Grayson/Bates combination will take us up, and then when Bates sells up he'll have made a profit and we can begin to spend money again, but obviously live within our means.

  • Comment number 91.

    It's not surprising that Bates wants to build toilets on one of the stands.
    At Chelsea, he wanted to build an hotel but Chelsea were a Premiership side.
    This guy loves building.

    Reading Leeds fans being happy is nice.
    You're officially a project.

  • Comment number 92.

    Nice side-step Matt, you should be playing rugby!! This "ownership issue" is all a load of nonsense. The key thing is this, Leeds are out of debt, still attracting huge crowds and look well set to challenge for promotion yet again next season. What you should ACTUALLY be "investigating" is the ridiculous amount of debt that clubs function on. Why keep overlooking Man Utds massive debt? They have an unfair advantage as their team is built on debt, and clubs trying to stay in the black suffer. Debt is the issue in football, not ownership.

  • Comment number 93.

    4. At 12:34pm 10th May 2011, packersftw wrote:
    What a surprise, first 3 comments are people moaning. So irritating that the majority of blogs on here become arenas for people to whine, just grow up.
    Doesn't that make it the first 4?

  • Comment number 94.

    Capital "P" in "beyond the Pale"? LOL - bit literate for the Beeb surely?

    Good article right enough. I'm enduringly surprised that more hasn't been made of Leeds' former (present?) owners being allowed to maintain such a high level of anonymity. Aren't professional kickball clubs in this country supposed to be regulated with regard to "unfit or improper persons" at the reins?

    On the more important issue, I personally suspect Jermaine Beckford to be owned by Darren Beckford, through an intricate web of offshore holding companies, shell entities and tax instruments. Youse heard it here first, lads.

  • Comment number 95.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 96.

    I am concerned for the long suffering fans of Leeds United. Why? Because there is something fundamentally odd about the ownership story of the club.

    Bates buys it, and it goes into administration; "someone else" buys it because the main creditors accept a rubbish deal. Leeds are then free of their past debts; then Ken Bates buys it again. For how much and with what investment? You would have expected the club (the only professional team in one of the country's biggest cities with a populous metropolitan hinterland) to be of interest to investors, and that the club would have sought a buyer willing to invest fresh funds; they might even have been able to play one potential buyer off against another.

    This will not go away because the followers of other clubs expect football to be played by the rules on and off the pitch. Unless sufficient information is made available to ensure transparency, then the suspicion will always remain that this was all a fiddle.

    Remember, Nixon, as US president the most powerful man in the world, did not get away with Watergate. The story of Leeds United's ownership is surely going to remain a challenge to crack for investigative journalists worth their salt. That's why I am concerned for those loyal Leeds fans, because some time soon a Mountie is probably going to get their man, and Leeds will go through another dip in fortunes (if they survive at all)

  • Comment number 97.

    #89 "whilst other clubs have ended up going down the divisions, Boston United for one,for similar things. "


    Bad example but one used by Barry Fry on the day of our appeal hearing, the alleged reason Boston were dropped through the divisions was non payment of 100% of Football debts. So not the same as Leeds

    A quote from wikipedia "Because of the relegation Boston were originally scheduled to play the 2007–08 season in the Conference National but this position was immediately placed in doubt after the club's chairman Jim Rodwell entered Boston into a Company Voluntary Arrangement late in their last game so that 10 points would then be deducted in the 2006–07 season instead of the 2007–08 season.[3] Although this meant that Boston started the 2007–08 season without a points penalty FA rules dictated that they be demoted 2 divisions as a result of HM Revenue & Customs placing a restriction into the CVA of Boston not being allowed to pay football creditors 100% of what they were owed. They therefore played the 2007–08 season in the Conference North division, two steps below the Football League."

    Not the most reliable site to quote I admit, but I have read it elsewhere too but don't have time to find it.

  • Comment number 98.

    Oooops, got moderated out of existence for suggesting that the process of running up huge debts, paying yourself lots in the meantime, then going bankrupt before restarting the same business under another name, was not an honest game. One that rightly gets exposed by the media when local fly-by-night builders do it. And one that hurts all the honest suppliers and customers

    Unless it's a football club, when it's OK makes you a hero to the stupid fans.

  • Comment number 99.

    @96. Maybe it'd be better to be concerned for the long suffering business suppliers to the mighty Leeds United, who ended up being denied the money they were due, whilst the offshore trusts line their pockets. Those suppliers include all the tax-paying public, with the club defaulting on their tax debts as well as all the others.

    There was never a chance KB would lose a penny of his own money on this deal.

  • Comment number 100.

    Evening all, some replies:

    Dan (3) et al - Yep, I know JB's at Everton now and I was so convinced he'd do well there I had him in my fantasy team for first two months of the season before I realised he is probably (he could get better) a flat-track bully. I suppose I should have been warned. I saw him play at Roots Hall a couple of years ago and the Leeds away support booed him through the entire game. Darren Beckford, on the other hand....

    Guanajanto (10) - PL has just brought in a rule very similar to the one you suggest. It's a provision in their beefed-up Fit & Proper test, the Owners and Directors Test. Off the top of my head, I think it rules anybody out who has two 'insolvency events' on their CV.

    alberto-frog (13) et al - I can see where you're coming from in your defence of KB as a rogue but YOUR rogue whose ends have justified the means - I can understand how that person would be almost exempt from criticism. I just don't think KB is that person. It was Krasner's board that shed most of the Ridsdale era debt, KB's great contribution to that effort was to take LUFC into administration. And we all know how controversial, embarrassing, painful and very nearly fatal to your club that was.

    MrBlueBurns (14) - Every single tax expert and lawyer I have spoken to about the old LUFC ownership structure (and to fair to KB, we've been planning something big on it for a while, so his move last week completely scuppered us!) said it was all about avoiding tax and preserving anonymity, usually to avoid tax. The use of discretionary trusts was particularly revealing as they have now fallen out of favour somewhat after the tax authorities got wise to them. What they did offer was a cute way around the 10% disclosure rule (another layer of insulation) but a couple of experts I spoke to said it was probably just a case of the Football League not understanding them. Which leads on to your second point, which is kind of the point of my blog. The Football League sanctioned LUFC's ownership statement but the PL very quickly indicated that it saw things differently. It has been suggested to me by more than one source that this was the first big test for new FL chairman Greg Clarke and he fluffed it. He later realised this, though, and effectively kicked it upstairs to PL who made it clear they would not roll over. It is that pressure, more than the MPs et al, that really forced KB to act.


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