Opinion

Here’s to you, Mr. Umbers: New Leeds United Chairman

Credit: Yorkshire Post
Written by Simon O'Rourke

Photo by: The Yorkshire Post

We’d all heard the name. “Umbers”, “Bates’ Buddy”, “GFH’s whipping boy” and, most recently “The guy that did due diligence for Massimo Cellino”. If we are to believe media reports, Andrew Umbers is a smooth-talking financial wizard who is only here to offer his assistance in guiding The Good Ship Leeds United. He has never had anything but the clubs best interests at heart. He’s a lifelong Leeds United fan, after-all.

To believe the local media is to believe the club, and take everything at face value. That’s nothing against Phil Hay et al, they have a job to do. I sense Phil Hay especially would love to sit down and blow the lid off, so to speak. One day, perhaps. In the immediate, however, their press passes would likely be torn up if they asked too many questions, or at least if posted the answers. They’ve been there before, during the Bates era. Everyone knows to toe the line now, and they do. In many cases, the right questions are asked, but weak answers are accepted and reported.

Andrew Umbers is one such case.

Andrew Umbers’ first official involvement at Leeds United was in 2010 when, according to Umbers, he was contacted by a Premier League director acting on behalf of Ken Bates. He was asked to try and find the club a buyer. In a recent interview with BBC Radio Leeds Umbers stated that he was hired by Ken Bates to speak with several parties regarding the sale of Leeds United Football Club.

“Ken had several interested parties in Leeds,” Umbers said in his interview. “Sadly, only one of them were interested in buying Leeds United,” he continued. Which is it, Andrew? One (GFH), or several? Nevermind.  You go ahead and keep tripping yourself up, I thought to myself.

Andrew Umbers Skillset, per his LinkedIn Profile

Andrew Umbers Skillset, per his LinkedIn Profile

“GFH put their money where their mouth is”, Umbers bumbled next. Actually, Andrew, they borrowed a bit of cash from their clients, and finally scraped four million together to pay Ken Bates (in cash) personally for exclusivity, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story. I’ll even ignore the fact that five of the first six responses given to Adam Pope were, infact, already proven to be a complete fabrication as evidenced by the GFH Leaks. I could go through all thirty minutes of the interview and dissect it, but I won’t. That’s for you to decide on.

What I know about Andrew Umbers is what is available in the public domain, and then what I have been witness to in private. I asked a former colleague of Umbers’ recently for his opinion on Andrew Umbers both professionally and personally. It was, and I quote, “Andrew isn’t that bad a guy, he just likes money”. Well, alrighty then. Another former Leeds United employee labelled Umbers “an absolute t**t and one of Bates’ buddies”. He has made friends, then.

He received no argument from me. This is, after all, the same Andrew Umbers whose now public LUFC timeline reads:

  1. Set Ken Bates up with GFH
  2. Negotiated a 4m cash sum (paid to Bates) to lock all other buyers out for almost a year
  3. Negotiated contingency payments for Bates that will see Leeds United owe Bates an undisclosed sum of money upon promotion to the Premier League
  4. Performed due diligence for GFH, but neglected to point out all the whopping debts
  5. Was on a £15k per month retainer by GFH, in addition to his usual fees
  6. Found several buyers for GFH (who had always planned to flip the club)
  7. Set GFH up with a buyer who turned out to be a fraud, prompting Hisham Alrayes of all people to question how Umbers could be trusted
  8. Even after the al Gosaibi debacle, Umbers was kept around and eventually offered to broker a loan that would see the club agree to giving “Peak6 Ludus Fund” 50% of all transfer revenue if relegated, or a £14m payment upon promotion. With an interest rate of 12%, plus clauses that could have crippled the club for years to come whether promoted or relegated, this loan was thankfully rejected by Hisham Alrayes.
  9. Even after the al gosaibi and Peak6 incidents, Umbers returned once more in late 2013 to attempt to broker another sale of Leeds United, this time acting on GFH’s behalf and approaching various parties in an effort to offload much of GFH’s shareholding. Through an Italian lawyer, Umbers introduced GFH to Massimo Cellino, reportedly breaking the exclusivity agreement already in place with Sports Capital, who had in turn already rail-roaded the Farnan/Verity Group possibly breaking yet more exclusivity agreements.
  10. Performed Due Diligence for Massimo Cellino prior to his purchase of Leeds United Football Club. Neglected to inform Cellino of hidden debts that he was well aware of.
  11. Somehow kept at Cellino’s side throughout 2014 despite being the very party blamed by Massimo for being neglectful in his duties
  12. Appointed Chairman of Leeds United Football Club after Massimo was suspended by The Football League

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d let my imagination run wild in the above list. It reads like red flag after red flag. It also raises an important question: Just what does Andrew Umbers know about Leeds United that keeps him so close to the club despite his constant failures in his various duties?

I have decided with this current profile of Umbers to simply stick to the facts I can prove with documentation, rather than wander off on an opinion-based tangent. I have sent a list of documents to Mr. Umbers, and I have offered him the chance to respond to allegations and rumours that he was involved in the Elland Road sale process, has known Bates since the late 90’s, and had a hand in the 2007 administration debacle. These allegations are based of rumours and documents that suggest there’s a lot more to the Andrew Umbers/Leeds United relationship that meets the eye.

Whatever the outcome of the inquiries sent to Mr. Umbers, I can’t help but toast the man for his most precious of abilities; the ability to screw up in almost every aspect of his involvement with Leeds United in the last four years, yet somehow now be the top dog.

So here’s to you, Mr. Umbers. Despite your constant mis-steps and attempts to sell the club down the river to whomever bats their eye-lids at your most recent overlords, you are now Chairman of Leeds United Football Club. Huzzah!

About the author

Simon O'Rourke

A lifelong Leeds United fan, Simon moved to Nova Scotia in 2002. Married for seven years with three children, Simon's first love has always been Leeds United. Simon is the owner of 1919 Media, a website design and development company whose name is a homage to Leeds United.

  • pattayarag

    Pts 2 & 8 above are dynamite,

    It would appear Umbers is a mercenary who sells his skills to the highest bidder but why does Cellino need him or trust him. Particularly as he sold Cellino a pup. Maybe Cellino’s hoping to get Unbers to reveal the secrets in the accounts. Maybe Umbers being close to Cellino puts Bates and Harvey on the back foot. Who knows but Umbers and Cellino make strange bed fellows.

  • VivS

    Umbers clearly has something big on LUFC, your job Simon is to find out what.