Leeds United: Deal’s still all up in air

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Sport Capital’s deal to buy Leeds United was under pressure last night with the consortium and Gulf Finance House wrangling over completion of the takeover.

A 75 per cent buy-out proposed by Sport Capital appeared to hit trouble yesterday amid claims that they and GFH were at odds over unspecified issues relating to the terms of the sale.

The purchase of a majority stake by Sport Capital – a group headed by United managing director David Haigh – was agreed in principle almost two months ago but the process is shrouded in doubt following another round of negotiations yesterday.

Neither side has commented on the process since a statement released by Sport Capital last Thursday said the buy-out had taken “longer than we anticipated” but vowed to work towards a “successful conclusion sooner rather than later.”

Cracks in the relationship between Sport Capital and GFH showed themselves 24 hours earlier when it emerged that senior officials at the Bahraini bank blocked an attempt by United to sign Ashley Barnes, despite Sport Capital’s members – among them Enterprise Insurance managing director Andrew Flowers – making funds available for a £500,000 transfer fee.

Sport Capital have been providing financial support for Leeds in recent months, with GFH increasing keen to relinquish a majority stake at Elland Road, but the proposed buy-out was delicately balanced last night and awaiting a breakthrough.

Flowers intimated last week that he expected the takeover to go through promptly, saying: “After a lot of hard work we’re almost ready to complete the deal.

“We’ve taken the time to ensure the terms of the deal will be in the best interests of everyone who wants to see Leeds United firmly on course for a long term and sustainable return to the top level of English football.”

United are presently on a five-game losing streak, a run which has dropped them to 12th in the Championship, and their early exit from the FA Cup leaves them without a game until next Tuesday’s home match against Ipswich Town.

A strong line-up was used in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Burnley at Thorp Arch yesterday.

El-Hadji Diouf, Matt Smith, and Luke Murphy scored in a 3-0 win.

Alex Mowatt, Michael Tonge and Marius Zaliukas also played having sat out of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Leicester City.