Leeds United: Nothing to fear from takeover

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Leeds United reached the first anniversary of GFH Capital’s takeover today as managing director David Haigh promised the next buy-out of the club would involve “no unnerving changes”.

This afternoon’s Championship game against Barnsley was set to mark 12 months since GFH Capital secured ownership of Leeds – but the firm’s days in charge are numbered with a group of investors led by Haigh poised to acquire control.

GFH Capital, the Dubai-based private equity company which bought Leeds from Ken Bates at the end of 2012, has agreed to sell a 75 per cent shareholding to Haigh’s consortium, a move that will see a majority stake in Leeds change hands for the second time in quick succession.

Haigh’s bid – backed by Andrew Flowers, the managing director of United shirt sponsor Enterprise Insurance – is subject to Football League approval and was originally due to be completed in time for the January transfer window.

Haigh has already invested personal cash into United, including a sum of more than £1m for operating costs last month, but the forthcoming investment will increase his authority at Elland Road.

GFH Capital plans to retain a small shareholding in United and Haigh has confirmed that existing chairman Salah Nooruddin will also stay in his post.

“There’s a limit to what I can say but I’ve invested personally in the club already and I’m part of a group of people who want to continue investing in the club,” Haigh said.

“That group will include GFH and the management will be staying as is. Salah will stay as chairman. That’s very exciting because we’ve got a great group of people here who’ve done so much this year, all of the shareholders.

“We’re adding a couple more so you’ve got sustainability and continuity. There are no big, unnerving changes coming.”

Asked if the deal would be concluded before the January transfer window opens, Haigh said: “One would hope for that. It’s in everyone’s interests. But it’s better not to put timescales on things, especially when you can’t control them.

“New investors need to get Football League approval and we’re going through that process at the moment.

“There’s little more I can say and I know it’s hard because people never want to be patient but if you look at the last year, every time we say we’ll do something, we do. We push things through as fast as we can. I would just ask for people to be a bit more patient.”

GFH Capital’s year in charge of United has seen sweeping changes throughout the club, with Brian McDermott appointed as manager in place of Neil Warnock in April, Bates replaced as chairman after eight-and-a-half years in the role and then sacked as club president 26 days into the job.

Former chief executive Shaun Harvey also parted company with Leeds to take up a new job as CEO of the Football League – the body which is being asked to sanction Haigh’s takeover.

Haigh, who is deputy chief executive of GFH Capital and became a Leeds director a month before the company’s buy-out last December, said: “I’m very happy and proud of what we’ve achieved.

“For me it’s been easily the best 12 months of my life, without a doubt.”

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