Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Leeds United’s link to Cayman Islands

Yorkshire Evening Post 10/12/12
By Phil Hay
Ugland House is an office block in Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands. Situated in George Town, it looks much like the next building – five stories high with white walls and red and green trim.
Three years ago, Ugland House came to the attention of US president Barack Obama when it transpired that this single property – the head office of law firm Maples and Calder – was the registered address for almost 19,000 different companies, 12,000 of them from America.
Obama saw a slight anomaly. “That’s either the biggest building in the world or the biggest tax scam in the world,” he said, at a time when he was attempting to turn the screw on well-known tax havens.
The relevance of all this to Leeds United? Bizarre as it sounds, the club – or more accurately their new owners – have joined the Ugland House throng. Documents submitted to Companies House on November 20 show that LUFC Holding Limited, the vehicle which GFH Capital is using to buy Leeds, is registered at a well-known address in George Town: PO Box 309, Ugland House, Grand Cayman.
Off-shore ownership is nothing new at Elland Road and nor is it illegal. The Forward Sports Fund which first acquired shares in Leeds in 2005 was incorporated in the Cayman Islands, and Outro Limited, the firm used by Ken Bates to purchase United last year, is based in Nevis. A recent ownership statement published by Leeds stated clearly that LUFC Holding Limited had been established in Grand Cayman.
At present, LUFC Holding Limited owns a 33.33 per cent stake in United. When Football League approval prompts GFH Capital to make final payment, it will acquire 100 per cent of the shares. The benefit to GFH Capital of holding those shares across the Atlantic is known only the company – another query to add to the pile – but its residence at Ugland House will interest many. Transparency has been a burning issue during Bates’ time as chairman. So it should be for any future owner.