At a press conference on Thursday of last week (April 2nd), Leeds United Head Coach Neil Redfearn noted that it’s rare to see someone sacked while they’re doing a good job. I hear ya, Neil. For every Steve Thompson, the assistant manager who lost his job for “under performing”, there’s another club employee who keeps his job no matter how poorly he performs. I’m looking at you, Mr. Andrew Stephen Umbers.
Just what does Andrew Umbers have to do in order to be given his marching orders? I am genuinely starting to believe he could run stark bollock naked across the hallowed turf at Elland Road with “Cellino is a dumbass” written on his butt cheeks and he’d still be given a free pass.
Take a look at our illustrious Chairman’s greatest moments, and consider that these moments are all in a four year time span. It takes a special talent to be this poor at your job.
Set Ken Bates up with GFH
The story, as has been told by Bates and Umbers anyway, goes like this: Ken Bates, weary from being the saviour of Leeds United, finally bowed to pressure from “idiots on t’internet” and decided to sell the club. This is when a senior figure from the Premier League (unnamed) put him in touch with Andrew Umbers. This would be a heartwarming story if remotely true. Andrew Umbers and Ken Bates have links going back to 1997 with investments in four different countries, and four different mining companies. It’s a nice story, though. Riveting stuff.
Negotiated a £4m cash sum (paid to Bates) to lock all other buyers out for almost a year
After Andrew Umbers and Ken Bates “met” (again) in 2011, Bates charged him with the task of finding new owners. Andrew Umbers spoke of this drawn out task by saying, and I quote: “there were many interested parties”, followed three minutes later by “there was only one interested party”. Ok, Andrew. Put the silly sauce back in the cupboard. What Umbers should have noted was the four million pounds cash that Gulf Finance House paid Ken Bates to lock out all other buyers while they scraped enough money up to buy the club in full. That cash did not go to Leeds United, it went to Ken Bates privately, who then no doubt paid Andrew Umbers his usual eight percent.
Negotiated contingency payments for Bates
Not happy with setting up the deal for GFH to buy the club, Umbers went a step further and negotiated a large contingency payment to be paid to Ken Bates upon promotion to the premier league. This contingency payment was passed on to the club from GFH, so the responsibility was shifted from Gulf Finance House, to Leeds United.
Performed due diligence for GFH, but neglected to point out all the whopping debts
Not satisfied with finding the only skint investment bank in the Middle East, Umbers offered his services to GFH as soon as their bid was accepted. Umbers performed Due Diligence for the Bahrain firm, and opted to exclude most of the debt.
Recipient of a £15k per month retainer by GFH, in addition to his usual fees
Even when GFH found out the true scope of the horror show that was the finances at Leeds United, they were convinced by Andrew Umbers to keep him on retainer, a fee completely separate to fees charged when he actually did work. Umbers received a payment of £15k per month whether he actually worked or not. Worry not, though, as Umbers was soon put to work…
Found several buyers for GFH (who had always planned to flip the club)
The first item on the agenda once GFH bought Leeds United? Sell the club. Who better to outsource this task to than Andrew Umbers. Umbers went upon his merry way, seeking out buyers for his “beloved Leeds United”. I don’t suppose it struck anyone at GFH, who were internally reeling from the, and I quote “f**king mess” that was the true story of Leeds United’s books, that it was Umbers who could have saved them from being involved by simply pointing out all the debt during Due Diligence. That would have been too easy though, I suppose.
Set GFH up with a buyer who turned out to be a fraud; Al Gosaibi
Not long after setting about his task, Andrew Umbers was contacted by the al Gosaibi Group. this group expressed their interest in a swift acquisition of Leeds United. A background check was run by Umbers, his expertise is listed as such, and the al gosaibi group passed these checks. A meeting was setup in Milan with the group, though it all came tumbling down when the group were exposed as a fraud. A simple Google search should have raised Red Flags with Umbers and Adam Moralee of Mischon de Reya Solicitors.
Hisham Alrayes questions how Umbers can be trusted
A leaked email chain shows that Umbers’ motives and integrity must be questioned, and includes Hisham Alrayes posing the question to the GFH Group of “How can we trust him now?”.
Peak 6, and the loan that would have crippled Leeds United Football Club
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. His retainer remained in place somehow.
All aboard the Cellino Express
Umbers returned to work once more in late 2013 to attempt to broker another sale of Leeds United, this time jumping on board with Massimo Cellino after the Italian reportedly broke the exclusivity agreement already in place with Sport Capital, who had in turn already rail-roaded the Farnan/Verity Group possibly breaking yet more exclusivity agreements. Cellino was originally part of the Sport Capital takeover bid.
Due Diligence, round two
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.
Cellino goes on rampage, Umbers survives
Umbers somehow kept at Cellino’s side throughout 2014 despite being the very party blamed by Massimo for being neglectful in his duties. Cellino went on record many times criticising the previous regimes for financial irregularities. These irregularities would have been caught in the Due Diligence process by anyone who knew that 1+1 does not equal 17. Despite failing in almost every aspect of performing Due Diligence, Umbers is retained by Massimo Cellino as an advisor from April onward.
Convinces Cellino to appoint him as Chairman
It is believed that a discussion took place on December 24th that saw Andrew Umbers make a brave promise to Massimo Cellino: “Appoint me as Chairman, and The Football League will go easy on you, The Football League have said so”. In fairness to Cellino, who didn’t really have a prayer of winning his appeal, he rolled the dice and appointed a man who he clearly trusted (or couldn’t get rid of).
Declares that Leeds United could go into liquidation (January 15th)
In his written testimony as Leeds United’s new Chairman, Andrew Umbers told the Appeals panel that without Massimo Cellino at the helm, Leeds United could go into liquidation. The testimony was derided by the QC, Tim Kerr, who noted that Umbers provided absolutely no evidence to back up his testimony. Cellino lost his appeal, but Umbers had already been installed as Chairman. Any action to remove him as Chairman would have been a clear breach of his disqualifying order.
Says Leeds United have “turned the corner” (January 29th)
Just two weeks after Cellino’s appeal, which saw Umbers state on the record that such an instance would cause the club to go into liquidation, Umbers changed his mind. The club were no longer under financial stress and would infact “break even by the end of next season”. That must have been a hell of a fortnight, Andrew.
Winding up petition, and Leeds City Holdings (LCH)
Reacting to the Winding Up Petition issued against LCH, Umbers declared that the debt was a lawyers fee (Mark Taylor’s fee, to be precise; a former director of Leeds United and a long time Ken Bates ally). Umbers, drawing on all his professional know-how, declared the WUP irrelevant and said the club would overturn it. The court disagreed, putting LCHL into liquidation. The matter was finally settled out of court.
Reiterates that GFH own 25% of Leeds United (January – February)
In the days between January 29th and February 5th, Umbers’ various interviews all included the same statement when asked about Gulf Finance House: “GFH own 25% of Leeds United Football Club”
Leeds United’s official website states GFH own only 2.75% of the club (March)
Contrary to all his interviews in January and February, Leeds United’s official website confirms GFH’s current ownership percentage as 2.75%, a holding they maintain by owning 25% of LCH, a company which in turn owns 11% of Leeds United. This is the same Leeds City Holdings that Umbers referenced in his interviews around the time of the Winding Up Petition, a company he saw as irrelevant. Umbers back-tracks on his previous statements of “25%” to BBC Radio Leeds, and states that the 2.75% holding is only temporary (though it has been the case since June of 2014).
Reports suggest he ostracized Chief Operating Officer Matt Child
Soon after the resignation of Matt Child from his position as COO, reports began to surface that Umbers had begun to ostracize Child, refusing him access to the executive boxes for various Leeds United games. Press reports suggested Matt Child, who didn’t even ask for a salary during his first two months at the club, felt that he could no longer continue in his position as a direct result of actions taken (and not taken) by Umbers. Support for Matt Child quickly leaked on to social media with club sponsors and associates declaring the loss of Child from the role as a “massive blow”.
Mad Thursday; Thompson sacked, Antenucci scoring too many goals
Thursday April 2nd was a chaotic day even for Leeds United. Assistant Head Coach Steve Thompson was officially suspended “for under-performing” by Nicola Salerno. The move was backed by Andrew Umbers, who in turn neglected to inform Neil Redfearn about the suspension. Reports soon surfaced suggesting that it was Umbers himself who sanctioned the sacking of Thompson, forcing Nicola Salerno to do the dirty work. The Chairman was quick to point out to BBC Radio Leeds reporter Adam Pope that the board fully supported the move. Salerno has since offered his resignation, though there is no indication as to whether this has been officially accepted.
Reports also surfaced on the same day that Neil Redfearn had been told earlier in the week that he was not permitted to play Mirco Antenucci due to a clause in the strikers contract that would be triggered should Mirco score two more goals in the 2014/2015 season. Umbers denied having issued the instruction to Redfearn, though club insiders, and Antenucci’s own agent confirmed the existence of the clause. The striker himself took to social media to distance himself from the decision.
Neil Redfearn has since noted in interviews that the club is isolating him and creating a bad environment. Redfearn has even suggested that he will consider his future after the away game vs Wolverhampton Wanderers. Redfearn and Thompson enjoyed a fantastic run as a coaching partnership, ushering the team from the threat of relegation to the security of a mid-table standing in the space of three months.
As recently highlighted in a previous article, I do not know how or why Andrew Umbers continues to be employed at Leeds United. My only guess is that he knows where all the proverbial bodies are hidden.
Featured image: Yorkshire Evening Post