Andrew Flowers has tonight bowed out of the race to buy Leeds United.
The managing director of Enterprise Insurance withdrew from the fight after making a last-ditch effort to take charge of the club before Italian businessman Massimo Cellino completed his own takeover.
Flowers was part of a failed attempt by the Sport Capital consortium to secure a 75 per cent stake in Leeds last month but he attempted to pull a fresh offer together over the weekend after Cellino caused chaos at Elland Road by sacking manager Brian McDermott last Friday - a sacking made despite the fact that Cellino’s buy-out of Gulf Finance House was still incomplete.
McDermott has since been reinstated by owner Gulf Finance House but Enterprise - United’s shirt sponsor since 2011 - withdrew its support of the club on Friday evening and has also issued a winding-up order on the club over a loan paid to United in 2012.
A group led by former Manchester United International managing director Mike Farnan could yet thwart Cellino’s buy-out of Leeds with a late offer but the Cagliari owner appears poised to secure the club, provided the Football League approves his deal.
In a statement, Flowers said: “I entered discussions in good faith to buy this club for the simple reason that I am a lifelong supporter and sincerely believed that I could make a real contribution towards the goal of promotion to the Premier League and at the same time provide the stability and sound financial governance the club desperately needs.
“However, the emergence of Mr Cellino’s bid, and the nature of the transaction, seems to have crystallised the attitudes of both GFH and the Leeds United board, enabling them to dispose of the club with no consideration for its ultimate security and wellbeing.
“In effect, it is a ‘fire sale’ transaction which is not in the interests of Leeds United, its players, staff or loyal supporters.
“Both myself and my company, Enterprise Insurance, have been enormous financial supporters of the club for the last few years and while we may understand the commercial expediency which leads the owners to accept the superficially attractive Cellino offer, we remain firmly convinced this deal will not give the club the stability or investor commitment it badly needs.
“Despite our serious misgivings, we wish the team, the manager and fans well for the future and I remain a very enthusiastic Leeds supporter.
“I have no other comment to make at this time about outstanding financial and legal issues between us and the current owners.”
At 10.30pm last night Mike Farnan, of Together Leeds, issued a statement reiterating his intentions to continue his bid to assume control of Leeds United.
The statementread: “We have watched the events of the last week with considerable interest.
“We remain committed to delivering a fully-funded, sustainable, long-term plan, to rebuild Leeds United FC and restore it to its rightful place in English football. We have assembled a team of highly regarded individuals and advisors who have substantial reputations in football and are ready to move quickly to resolve all outstanding issues.
“We have reached out to GFH with every intention of demonstrating that this is a bid backed by credible Leeds, Yorkshire and footballing people that offers them an acceptable solution and the club and its supporters a dynamic future. The commitment and determination shown by Andrew Flowers has made us more determined not to walk away. Together our group can and will deliver a vision that has at its heart the club we all cherish.
“In the best interests of Leeds United, our offer of constructive dialogue will remain open. We now await GFH’s response and will look forward to finding a constructive, embracing solution to ensure that the distractions of this prolonged uncertainty can be put behind the club and the focus return to football.”