The Football League has begun “preliminary conversations” with lawyers representing Massimo Cellino as the fight for approval of his Leeds United takeover begins.
The governing body issued a statement within hours of an announcement from Leeds that Cellino, the owner of Serie A club Cagliari, had agreed a deal to buy 75 per cent of shares through a British firm called Eleonora Sport Limited.
Cellino is one of two directors of the company and his buy-out of United is dependent on the Football League sanctioning the sale and passing 57-year-old Cellino through its Owners and Directors Test.
Cellino has two previous convictions for fraud, one received in 1996 and the other 2001, and his record casts doubt on the likelihood of him receiving clearance, a requirement for anyone buying more than 10 per cent of shares in a Football League club.
The League’s procedures are under intense scrutiny on account of both Cellino’s history and the chaos which followed the conclusion of talks between him and current owner Gulf Finance House on Friday. Manager Brian McDermott was sacked hours later, only for GFH and Cellino to then set about trying to reinstate him.
A statement from the League read: “We have made Eleonora Sport Limited aware of our requirements under Football League regulations relating to the change of ownership at Championship clubs. Information has been requested that is consistent with that required of all potential new owners.”
The League has been warned of a legal challenge against it if it decides to sanction Cellino’s buy-out.
Andrew Flowers, the managing director of club shirt sponsor Enterprise Insurance, has instructed Timothy Dutton QC to begin drawing up a case against the takeover.
Flowers withdrew Enterprise’s sponsorship of Leeds on Friday in protest against McDermott’s sacking.