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David Sullivan Used West Ham as a Tax Shield

Sullivan owes £700k in back taxes, court rules

Burnley v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Mark Robinson/Getty Images

The hits just keep on coming for David Sullivan. As the club continues to reel after the fan unrest during the Burnley match, reports Monday claim Sullivan used West Ham to avoid paying £700k in taxes. I am no finance expert so I really cannot get too much into the weeds on this, but at issue are the shares Sullivan’s family company, Conegate Ltd, purchased in 2010. Conegate purchased £2 million in West Ham shares then sold them back to the club for £1; the loss was used to reduce Conegate’s tax bill.

This can be seen in two ways. The first is the most damning: Sullivan used the club as a tax haven to reduce his taxes. For someone who wanted to buy the club (saying, at the time, “I don’t think we would have bought West Ham if we weren’t fans. It is a serious mess there but we are West Ham fans and it is nice to see that we beat off two foreign investors.”) it looks like it was all just a scheme to increase personal wealth. For fans who are concerned with how Sullivan has treated the club’s finances, this only serves to harden their case.

The second, and probably how this is going to be spun, is that he invested £1,999,999 million of his own money in the club at the time of desperate need. This contributes to his narrative of cleaning up the mess he inherited (see the quote above).

Either way, the timing of this story, and the optics around it, will surely add to the increasing pressure on Sullivan and the rest of the Board. Also, this probably means £700k less to spend on transfers this summer. So there’s that.