CONTROVERSIAL Leeds United chairman Ken Bates told his solicitor he would offer a free meal for two to anyone with information about the whereabouts of a former club director, a court heard today.
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The revelation emerged on the third day of a courtroom battle between Mr Bates and Leeds businessman Melvyn Levi, who successfully sued the chairman for libel damages in 2009.
Mr Levi and his wife Carole have brought Mr Bates back to court to seek damages for harassment from him, Leeds United and Yorkshire Radio, the radio station which broadcasts live commentary of the club’s matches.
The couple, who claim Mr Bates has “ruined their lives”, also seek an injunction against the chairman to prevent further harassment.
The two men fell out after Mr Bates bought Leeds in January 2005 from the Yorkshire Consortium, of which Mr Levi was a member.
Leeds County Court heard today from Leeds’ Jersey-based solicitor Hiren Mistry about the club’s attempt to serve a writ against Mr Levi in December 2010.
The club intended to sue Mr Levi and his business partner, Robert Weston, over allegations that the club was owed more than £190,000 after a contract was terminated in 2005.
Papers were served on Mr Weston without any problems but, when a courier arrived at Mr Levi’s home, the former director was not in.
The courier enquired whether he could leave the papers in Mr Levi’s letterbox, but it was decided that they should be served personally, the court heard.
Mr Mistry told the hearing it was suggested to him that Mrs Levi, who was at the house, had been “evasive” when asked by the courier where her husband was.
He said the papers had to be served “urgently” because any delay in the legal proceedings would be “costly” to the club.
But Mr Mistry agreed that he did not ask for another attempt to be made, even after the club’s chief executive Shaun Harvey rang to say that Mr Levi had been spotted in a Leeds restaurant.
Simon Myerson QC, for the Levis, asked Mr Mistry: “Is it because Mr Bates had told you there would be announcements on Yorkshire Radio every day for two weeks, offering dinner for two for information provided?”
Mr Mistry said: “He did tell me that, yes.”
Mr Myerson continued: “Is it the case Mr Bates said ‘Don’t worry about service. We are going to put a radio announcement out’?”
“Absolutely not,” Mr Mistry replied. “Procedure is procedure.”
The court has heard that Yorkshire Radio broadcast an announcement during Leeds United’s home match against Leicester City on Boxing Day 2010, asking anyone who knew Mr Levi’s whereabouts to contact the club.
A similar announcement was made during or before the club’s match against Middlesbrough at Elland Road on New Year’s Day in 2011.
Listeners who heard the announcement “assumed I was some sort of fugitive”, Mr Levi said in a witness statement.
Mr Levi was awarded £50,000 in damages in 2009 after a High Court judge ruled that he had been libelled by Mr Bates in articles published in the programme.
The Leeds chairman had alleged Mr Levi was a “shyster” who tried to blackmail the club over money.
The hearing has been told that the Levis were forced to carry personal alarms and bolster security at their Leeds home after the programme published their address and invited supporters to look up their telephone number.
Mr Bates has described the Levis’ harassment allegations as “rubbish”.
The hearing continues.