Massimo Cellino’s takeover of Leeds United is facing a final challenge from a competing group of buyers who want the Football League to force Gulf Finance House to seriously consider their own bid for the club.
In what appears to be a last throw of the dice, the Mike Farnan-led Together Leeds consortium are to submit an offer direct to the Football League in the hope that the governing body will instruct GFH to open formal talks with them.
GFH, the Bahraini bank which has owned United since 2012, is ready to sell a majority stake in Leeds and has committed itself to a deal with Cellino, the Italian businessman who controls Serie A club Cagliari.
Cellino and GFH exchanged contracts on Friday, 24 hours after he made the first of a series of staged payments agreed as part of his 75 per cent buy-out, and Cellino is expected to attend United’s game at Brighton tonight with he and his associates confident of sealing their takeover before the end of this week.
The Miami-based 57-year-old is due at a Football League hearing tomorrow where the governing body’s board will consider whether or not to sanction his £25m purchase of Leeds.
A past conviction for fraud and the chaos seen at Elland Road on the night when GFH and Cellino first shook hands on a deal – a night on which manager Brian McDermott was illegally sacked by Cellino – have put pressure on the League’s approval process, though the Italian is not expected to breach its Owners and Directors Test.
Farnan’s group, however, hope an offer for United which matches Cellino’s purchase price will force the Football League to pressure GFH into discussing a deal directly with Together Leeds, particularly if the League uncovers problems with Cellino’s takeover.
Contact between Together Leeds and GFH was unproductive in the weeks leading up to the announcement of Cellino’s deal, with Farnan claiming that the bank had refused to engage in meaningful discussions with them.
Club chairman Salah Nooruddin – a shareholder with both GFH and Leeds and a man who stands to retain his position at Elland Road under Cellino – dismissed Together Leeds’ interest in an interview with the YEP last week, saying: “Their first offer (made in November) was ridiculous.
“When they saw we were going to complete a deal with someone serious they made more noise.
“But it was too late. At GFH we didn’t feel it would be good to get into another long round of negotiations.”
Sources involved with Together Leeds said they planned to supply the Football League with proof of funding alongside full details of their offer.
Farnan, who revealed last week that the group were backed by “institutional funding”, vowed to fight on against Cellino’s offer on Friday night, saying: “Until the ink is dry and Football League approval is given, the club’s still not sold.
“(GFH) have made life very difficult for us for whatever reason. No-one knows. We’ve got strong funding behind this, institutional funding, and we’re talking to the Football League. We’re going to do everything we can to be heard.
“I’m doing this in the interests of the club because we can bring stability.”