The chief executive of Leeds United yesterday told MPs he has no knowledge of the people behind the "mysterious trust" that owns the club – and that the club's chairman, Ken Bates, does not know either.
Leeds' ownership structure came under scrutiny at the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee's inquiry into football governance, in a hearing at Burnley FC. Shaun Harvey, Leeds' chief executive, said the club was owned by a holding company called FSF, based in the West Indies island of Nevis, and owned by three discretionary trusts. The trustees have appointed Patrick Murrin and Peter Boatman to run the club and they had asked Bates to be chairman.
Harvey told the committee: "I don't know who the beneficiaries of this discretionary trust are, no." Asked if Bates knew, he replied: "Not to my knowledge. There is no individual [owner], that's the nature of discretionary trusts – it's a perfectly legal and much used ownership structure in many different industries, not just football."
One MP, Damian Collins, queried whether that was a healthy state of affairs, saying: "With a club like Leeds United the majority shareholding is owned by a mysterious trust and we don't know who the investors are and I think that is a legitimate concern."
Harvey defended the structure and said the club had recovered from the financial problems inherited from the Peter Ridsdale era, adding: "The football club has no debt. There's no indication that there's any desire [from the discretionary trusts] to move away from the investment."