Why I bought Leeds United

Dubai-based investment house GFH Capital made headlines last year when it took over Leeds United Football Club. Deputy CEO and managing director of Leeds United David Haigh explains why he chose Leeds

Sport is one area where there haven’t been many Islamic investments, says Leeds United managing director David Haigh.

Sport is one area where there haven’t been many Islamic investments, says Leeds United managing director David Haigh.

Interest in European football is nothing new for the Gulf’s money men.

In recent years, the high-profile acquisitions of elite clubs such as Manchester City and Paris St-Germain have added to lucrative sponsorship deals signed with Barcelona, AC Milan, Real Madrid and Arsenal, giving leagues in England, Spain, Italy, France and beyond a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour.

But while groups such as Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited, Qatar Investment Authority, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have targeted some of the continent’s heavyweights, Dubai-based GFH Capital have done things a little differently.

The private equity investment, advisory and fund management company made headlines in November 2012 when it finalised a £52m ($80.4m) deal to take over English second-tier club Leeds United, gaining a 100 percent shareholding.

Despite the rich history of the club, its ranking over recent years has been well below that of the Barcelonas and Real Madrids of the world, with financial woes and a lack of form sending Leeds from the Premier League to League One (the third tier) in just three years before its promotion to the Championship in 2010.

It’s a far cry from the club’s flirtation with the UEFA Champions League in the early years of the 20th century, and its last major success — winning the old First Division title in the 1991-1992 season, the year before the Premiership era.

And there are now generations of United fans who weren’t born during the golden age in the 1960s and 1970s, which brought both domestic and European success.

But rather than putting GFH Capital off acquiring the club, its recent downfall made it all the more attractive as an investment proposition.

“The term ‘sleeping giant’ is often bandied around, but I think in this case it really is true,” says David Haigh, deputy CEO of GFH Capital, managing director of Leeds United, and — perhaps most importantly — a life-long Leeds fan.

He continues: “People ask ‘why Leeds?’ And the short answer is because it’s Leeds United, full stop.

“Leeds is very special. It’s got a phenomenal history and we want to bring back those glory days. It’s got global reach on a par with top Premier League clubs, and it’s a fantastic investment opportunity in a sector which could gain the interest of new investors, as well as being good fun.

“It’s always nice to have an investment that everyone’s interested in — and it’s one where we feel we can advance and have an impact on the business and community surrounding it.”

Formerly known as Injazat Capital, Islamic private equity investor GFH Capital is a 100 percent subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, based in Bahrain, and is better known for its acquisitions in sectors that include real estate, telecoms and healthcare.

Its current portfolio includes Specialised Technical Services (STS), Solidarity Group Holding, and First Energy Bank among others, with Jordanian production house Rubicon perhaps the best known of its exited portfolio.

Article continued on next page...

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on arabianbusiness.com may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: G.Davies

My question would be, how an earth did GFH pass the fit and proper director/ owners test, with no obvious business plan or financial clout promised. Quite clearly an investment bank to buy and flip the club for a profit, that hasn't worked. How can you buy a club, then not afford to run it. The league has failed it own test in my opinion.

Posted by: sydney-leeds

well said mr davies the football league has let our club be run by people with no structure or capitol to take us anywhere GFH go back to where you come from.

Posted by: Stevie Dee

Absolute drivel. Admittedly the article was written a while back but GFH has proven itself to be full of empty promises. Not fulfilling its obligations to pay the players' wages is a disgrace.

The club finds itself at an all time low and the much heralded strategy for long term sustainable financial stability holds up as much as Ken Bates' strategy for tact & diplomacy.

Haigh has proven himself to wholly dishonest but when you can't even remember which side of the Pennines you were born I guess it was to be expected. Nooruddin. Well he seems to have booked himself a seat on Malaysian airways as he's gone absent without leave very quickly.

I could go on but it's boring now. Too many people and organisations have been abusing Leeds United for far too long. It has to stop.

Posted by: nash

GFH are a bunch of irresponsible people!!

Posted by: David Lockwood

GFH just go! We don't like you,mew don't trust you snd we don't want you at our club. Terrible, terrible performance from GFH.

Posted by: karl perera

They are beyond incompetent in the board room and at the moment when Leeds need leadership and finance they are silent and invisible and totally opposed to putting any more funds into Leeds.

We had hoped for something much better. GFH, the entire Leeds fanbase has a message for you:


GFH have almost destroyed Leeds after claiming they would fund a return back to the premier league, instead they have tried to sell us within a very short time and are unable or unwilling to even pay the wages. CELLINO IN NOW!

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
First bank merger in 20 years sets Saudi Arabia up for more deals

First bank merger in 20 years sets Saudi Arabia up for more deals

Q&A look at what the planned merger of HSBC and RBS’s Saudi ventures...

A natural move: How Dubai Chamber is strengthening its ties in Latin America

A natural move: How Dubai Chamber is strengthening its ties in Latin America

With vast resources and more than half-a-billion people, the...

If Saudi future's so bright, why can't these banks find buyers?

If Saudi future's so bright, why can't these banks find buyers?

No big-name global banks eager to buy stakes in Saudi banks,...

Most Discussed