Leeds United: Cellino and GFH are still waiting for League call

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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The Football League and Massimo Cellino’s lawyers remained locked in legal discussions last night with the Italian’s takeover of Leeds United set to drag into an eighth week.

The Football League and Massimo Cellino’s lawyers remained locked in legal discussions last night with the Italian’s takeover of Leeds United set to drag into an eighth week.

Solicitors for the League are continuing to examine a tax conviction imposed on Cellino on Tuesday after withstanding attempts to bring a resolution to a takeover which has been pending at Elland Road for almost two months.

A legal letter sent by Leeds owner Gulf Finance House to the League earlier this week, warning of “potentially irreparable damage” to the club if Cellino’s buy-out is rejected, failed to force the governing body into a decision over whether or not to approve his deal.

Cellino’s representatives are also attempting to persuade the League that his punishment in Sardinia for evading more than £300,000 in import duty due on a yacht he bought in 2010 is not serious enough to warrant him failing the organisation’s Owners and Directors Test.

The sale of 75 per cent stake in Leeds by GFH to Cellino has been in the hands of the Football League since the beginning of February, but the approval process was complicated by the verdict of a court in Italy this week.

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey – CEO at Leeds until July of last year – is now back in England after a trip to Kuala Lumpur on business, and the League is working to finalise a report on Cellino for its eight-man board to rule upon before the end of next week. One of the board’s members – Middlesbrough’s non-executive director, Keith Lamb - was quoted yesterday as saying that they had “only just received information” about Cellino’s conviction for tax evasion, adding: “When we know all the facts, we will decide.”

GFH attempt attempted to put pressure on the League on Thursday via a letter sent by a senior partner at Gibson Dunn.

The letter accused the League of showing more “rigour” in investigating Cellino than it had during assessments of other takeovers of Football League clubs and said that Cellino’s deal represented “by far the best outcome for the club, the fans, and indeed the Football League.”

The League set a timeframe of 10 days for a decision last Thursday, a deadline which falls tomorrow, but it is not expected to make an announcement over the weekend.

Cellino, meanwhile, has been at his home in Miami for the past fortnight and is understood to be planning to fly to England early next week.

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