Opposition to Massimo Cellino’s takeover of Leeds United will increase today when a rival group of buyers meet with Gulf Finance House for talks about an alternative deal for the club.
Officials from GFH, the Bahraini bank which owns Leeds, are to receive a bid matching the price agreed with Cellino last week after the wild events of Friday and Saturday prompted a late attempt to stop the Italian acquiring a 75 per cent stake.
The new consortium, which brings together members of two separate groups who have bid unsuccessfully to buy Leeds in the past, will ask GFH for an immediate agreement which negates their plan to sell a controlling interest to Cellino.
Cellino has been on the verge of buying Leeds since he and GFH finalised the terms of a takeover last Friday, two days after an offer put together by the Sport Capital consortium fell apart.
One of the figures behind the Sport Capital proposal – Enterprise Insurance managing director Andrew Flowers – is understood to be pushing the latest offer to GFH.
After talks between the pair, Flowers has aligned himself with Mike Farnan, the Irishman whose Together Leeds consortium had an offer for United rejected by GFH in November.
The new group have been encouraged to approach GFH by the fact that Cellino’s takeover is still incomplete.
The Cagliari owner and GFH are yet to exchange contracts and events in the past 24 hours indicate a turning of the tide against Cellino.
Club manager Brian McDermott officially returned to work yesterday morning, three days after Cellino sacked him and sparked angry protests against the decision.
The dismissal was revoked by GFH which said Cellino lacked the authority to change manager until his takeover was officially complete.
The 57-year-old’s position seemed to weaken further yesterday when lawyer Chris Farnell – the man responsible for sacking McDermott via telephone – was escorted out of Elland Road by security and two members of United’s board.
Farnell is understood to have been at the stadium with a view to completing the paperwork for Cellino’s takeover. His failure to do so is an indication that GFH might yet consider alternative ways of selling their majority stake.
Cellino’s deal remains subject to Football League approval, though there were credible claims last night that he will pass
the governing body’s Owners and Directors Test due to the fact that his two convictions for fraud in Italy are classed as spent.
Flowers, however, is threatening to take the Football League to court if it approves Cellino’s takeover and he has appointed Timothy Dutton QC to prepare a legal case in the event that the Cellino purchase goes ahead.
The Football League issued an unusually prompt statement on Saturday, confirming that it was already in “preliminary discussions” with Cellino about its stipulations.
Both the League and the club are the focus of much attention following the aborted sacking of McDermott which appears to have cost Leeds two major sponsors.
McDermott held a lengthy press briefing yesterday in which he again urged GFH to bring its shambolic search for buyers to an end and remove the uncertainty hanging over Elland Road.
Asked how safe his position was with Cellino free to sack him if full control of Leeds comes his way, McDermott said: “I can’t answer that question.
“It’s just about moving forward the best way we possibly can and putting this to bed, put what’s happened to bed.
“The ownership needs to be resolved very, very quickly.”