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Nigerian tech entrepreneur has Sheffield United in his sights

<i>Ashley Allen/Getty Images</i><br/>Max Lowe of Sheffield United keeps possession of the ball during the Championship match against Stoke City at Bramall Lane on January 14
Getty Images
Ashley Allen/Getty Images
Max Lowe of Sheffield United keeps possession of the ball during the Championship match against Stoke City at Bramall Lane on January 14

By Zayn Nabbi and Darren Lewis, CNN

Nigerian tech entrepreneur Dozy Mmobuosi has “made a deposit” to buy Sheffield United, in a takeover that would make him the only Black majority owner in England’s top two professional leagues.

Sheffield United currently lie second in the Championship competition and are on course to being promoted to the Premier League, which is home to some of the world’s richest teams.

Mmobuosi, who is the CEO and founder of Tingo Inc. and Tingo International Holdings Inc., told CNN in an exclusive interview earlier this week that he will be financing the deal on his own and to show how serious he is about buying the club, he’s already put money down.

“It is my money. And I have actually made a deposit,” Mmobuosi revealed during the interview in London.

“I would expect myself and the club to issue a joint statement you know that would have details concerning how much, but I have made a deposit and that shows my seriousness for a start,” he said.

“For me it’s long term … I believe we’ll get to the Premiership and will remain there,” the Nigerian businessman said.

Mmobuosi says that he began discussions with the club’s owner, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdullah, at the “end of November, early December” and is now waiting for the English Football League (EFL) to complete its owners’ and directors’ test.

“I put forward a detailed plan with the EFL and of course to the club,” Mmobuosi said.

“And I’m working closely with the club to get things moving. So I don’t want to talk too much about the approval, but we’ll leave that in the capable hands of the EFL,” he said.

Both Sheffield United and the EFL both declined to comment about Mmobuosi’s takeover bid.

Mmobuosi also addressed the claims raised in a report by The Athletic that there was no evidence that one of his companies Tingo Airlines had ever taken a flight, and the website didn’t appear to exist.

“I have to laugh,” exclaimed Mmobuosi. “Just before Covid, I said to my wife, ‘Look, I think it’s high time I started putting things together to start this airline dream I have always had,.

“We started the process first to incorporate the business, have the feasibility studies and begin to recruit people. But Covid happened, and as an entrepreneur you have plans, you put plans in place and then you try to lease aircraft, they begin to delay.

“So Covid came and I thought to myself, ‘Look, I’m finding it difficult. I spoke with consultants, it became impossible.”

“I released a statement (Tuesday) addressing that we have since started the process of dissolving the business, dissolving the entity we created here as it’s really not of use to us anymore,” he said.

Mmobuosi has remained tight-lipped on his plans for the club, but he did confirm that there would be fan representation on the board.

“Yes, the fans are going to be involved because the football club is for them,” he said. “I’m an investor and a co-owner and I’m going to own it with them.”

Mmobuosi says that his goal would be to bring in the best people to run the club, and deliver results, but diversity would be a key pillar for him.

Upon completion of the deal, Mmobuosi would become only the second African owner and the first Black majority owner currently in England’s top two professional soccer leagues, consisting of 44 clubs across the length and breadth of the country, according to CNN research.

In the Premier League, actor Michael B. Jordan is a part owner at Bournemouth and basketball superstar LeBron James has a minority stake at Liverpool, while Egyptian Nassef Sawiris is the co-chair and joint owner of Aston Villa.

“I believe in diversity. So it’s not a Black thing. It’s not an African thing. You know, we have to consider all races. But what is more important is the best man for the job,” Mmobuosi said.

“But there’ll be a good level of diversity introduced maybe for the first time,” he added. “I understand I’m doing this also for my continent, and I won’t let my own continent down.”

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Will Rogan contributed to this report.

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