Leeds United: Winding-up petition seen off by Cellino

Massimo Cellino.

Massimo Cellino.

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Massimo Cellino has moved to kill off a winding-up petition served on Leeds United by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs as work begins on the financial mess at Elland Road.

The Yorkshire Evening Post has learned that HMRC issued the petition against Leeds on April 1 after the club failed to meet a tax bill of more than £500,000 last month.

United were due to pay the revenue’s charges before March 31 but missed the deadline, prompting HMRC to launch legal proceedings. Cellino, however, is understood to have paid the six-figure sum in full today.

Leeds, who are losing close to £1m a month and recorded large debts in their latest accounts, have already faced down one winding-up petition since the turn of the year, repaying a loan of £1.5m called in by shirt sponsor Enterprise Insurance.

Money invested in the club by Cellino, United’s new owner, allowed United to settle that dispute, and rapid settlement of HMRC’s bill was a pressing priority after his takeover of Leeds was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon.

The 57-year-old is funding operations at Elland Road again having refused to offer further cash advances while he fought to overturn a Football League ruling banning him from buying the club.

Alongside the tax bill, Cellino is expected to pay wages deferred by United’s playing staff in the next 24 hours.

Manager Brian McDermott, his coaching team and senior players have received only 65 per cent of their salaries for March after agreeing to delay some of the money owed to them until after Cellino’s appeal against the Football League.

The Italian won his battle to buy a 75 per cent stake in Leeds last Saturday and his lawyers announced the completion of his takeover a few hours before Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat at Watford. He made his first appearance at Elland Road as owner yesterday afternoon.

HMRC’s winding-up petition, however, highlights the scale of the task taken on by Cellino, whose deal to buy out Gulf Finance House will ultimately cost him £35m.

United were rumoured to be close to administration before his takeover went through, a suggestion GFH consistently denied, but Cellino is confident of stabilising club accounts which this week showed a £9.5m loss for the 2012-13 financial year. The financial situation at Leeds has worsened since then.

Speaking on Tuesday, Cellino, who made his fortune in Italy’s agricultural market, said: “I will never let Leeds go into administration. None of my companies have ever gone into administration and none of them ever will.”

HMRC, which fought a bitter battle with Leeds during the club’s administration in the summer of 2007, refused to discuss the situation at Elland Road.

A spokesperson said: “HMRC do not comment on the affairs of individual companies.”

UNITED IN FIGURES

£9.5m: The loss posted by Leeds United this week for the 2012-13 financial year. The club’s operating losses ran to more than £11m.

£11.2m: The amount owed by Leeds to Gulf Finance House as of the end of June 2013. That figure has almost certainly increased in the nine months since.

£22m: Leeds United’s total debt at the end of the 2012-13 year. Once again, that sum is likely to have grown substantially. Cellino is known to have taken on £24m in debt in his share purchase agreement with GFH.

£17.8m: The wage bill at Elland Road, not including pension and social security costs. That takes the true figure to more than £20m, from an annual turnover of £28.5m.

£33m: United’s administrative expenses for 2012-13 which, as always, are not outlined in full.

£13m: The estimated value of the playing squad at Leeds as of September 1.

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