Leeds United: Cellino’s bid is held up again

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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The Football League last night raised the prospect of Massimo Cellino’s takeover of Leeds United dragging on for another two weeks, saying he and club owner Gulf Finance House have so far failed to satisfy its demands for information.

A statement from the League said its board planned to formally discuss Cellino’s £25m buy-out on March 13 unless he and GFH succeed in fulfilling the governing body’s requirements before that meeting takes place.

Cellino and GFH have been supplying documents related to his takeover since the Italian and League officials met at a hearing in London on February 12, five days after Cellino finalised a deal to purchase a 75 per cent stake in Leeds.

The League responded to their initial submissions by returning a lengthy list of questions to Cellino and GFH, many of them focusing on the funding behind his takeover and the financial plan for his first 12 months in control at Elland Road.

League regulations require Cellino to pass the organisation’s Owners and Directors Test but prospective buyers of Championship clubs are also asked to “provide evidence of the source and sufficiency of any funds which that person proposes to invest in or make available to the club.”

The sale of a majority shareholding to Eleonora Sport Ltd, a company controlled by Cellino, remains subject to Football League approval and the body clarified its position in a statement yesterday, saying: “The Football League remains in discussions with both the owners and proposed purchasers of Leeds United, regarding the planned change of ownership.

“To date, a significant amount of the requested information has been supplied by GFH and Eleonora Sport, but there are still a number of outstanding matters that will require further submissions from the two parties.

“The board of The Football League is next scheduled to meet on March 13 where it will receive an update on the matter from the League’s executive, unless all the remaining issues can be resolved satisfactorily in advance of this date.”

Cellino has already made the first in a series of scheduled payments to GFH and he funded a loan of around £1.5m last month to help cover United’s January wage bill. Leeds are suffering heavy financial losses and sources in Italy expect Cellino to lend them further money this week to ensure the payment of staff wages for February.

Cellino has already made the first in a series of scheduled payments to GFH and he funded a loan of around £1.5m last month to help cover United’s January wage bill.

Leeds are suffering heavy financial losses and sources in Italy expect Cellino to lend them further money this week to ensure the payment of staff wages for February.

GFH was asked to respond to the Football League’s statement by the YEP but declined to comment.

Cellino, who has been in England for much of this month and attended Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough, made no comment either.

The 57-year-old is said to be confident of securing approval but he is contemplating a fresh delay today following the Football League’s latest remarks.

The League’s scheduled board meeting on March 13 falls four days before United are due to face a winding-up petition in the High Court over a loan given to the club by shirt sponsor Enterprise Insurance in 2012.

Enterprise’s intentions are far from clear but the YEP understands that the petition remains in place.

The club, however, are believed to be hopeful of resolving the dispute before the case is heard.

Italian media, meanwhile, are reporting that a court in Cellino’s homeland will deliver a verdict on charges facing him over an alleged unpaid tax bill on March 18.

The charges, which Cellino denies, relate to his purchase of a luxury yacht.

And in a separate development, the YEP has learned that Chris Farnell – the lawyer responsible for attempting to sack Leeds manager Brian McDermott on Cellino’s behalf on January 31 – was refused entry into Saturday’s game at Middlesbrough.

Farnell planned to be at the match with Cellino and one of his sons in attendance but the Teesiders barred him from entering The Riverside ahead of the kick-off.

A spokesman for Boro said the club had no comment to make.

Cellino is believed to have recently appointed new legal representatives, with London firm Mishcon de Reya now working for him.

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