Haigh’s closing in on Leeds United takeover

Matt Smith's effort is thwarted by Tommy Spurr.
Matt Smith's effort is thwarted by Tommy Spurr.
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Leeds United are to press ahead for Football League approval of the takeover deal which will give a group led by managing director David Haigh control of the club before the end of this month.

United appear to be in the final throes of GFH Capital’s reign at Elland Road after the firm accepted a bid from Haigh and other investors for a majority stake in the Championship side.

Haigh – GFH Capital’s deputy chief executive – is understood to have been lining up the offer for several months and plans to buy into Leeds alongside “high-profile businessmen” in time for the January transfer window.

The 35-year-old has been a board member at Elland Road since GFH Capital bought United from former chairman Ken Bates 12 months ago and he was appointed as managing director at the beginning of July. The impending takeover will give him a shareholding in the club for the first time, though GFH Capital is to retain a “significant” minority stake and chairman and fellow shareholder Salah Nooruddin will remain in place once the buy-out is complete.

Leeds have one other shareholder at present, Bahrain’s International Investment Bank (IIB).

It is not year clear if the company intends to retain its equity once Haigh’s group assume control.

In a statement released on Saturday morning, hours before United’s 1-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, Leeds said: “GFH Capital, majority owners of Leeds United, have granted a period of exclusivity to the investors in readiness for the January transfer window.

“The two parties have signed a share acquisition agreement for the purchase of shares in the club with GFH retaining a significant stake.

“The consortium includes a number of high-profile businessmen and does not include any previous owners or players of the club.

“It is anticipated that the investment will be in place for the January transfer window and will see existing chairman Salah Nooruddin and managing director David Haigh remain at the club for the long term.”

Haigh’s consortium are anxious to push their deal through before the January window amid clear suggestions that their takeover will increase the transfer funds available to manager Brian McDermott.

Leeds are seventh in the Championship after a first-half goal from Tommy Spurr ended their run of three straight victories at Ewood Park.

The planned buy-out rests heavily on approval from the Football League, as GFH Capital’s takeover did in 2012. Any new additions to the board at Elland Road would be required to pass the governing body’s Owners and Directors Test.

Haigh’s move for equity comes less than a week after he invested a sum of more than £1m into Leeds through Sport Capital, a company he established in England last month.

That payment followed a previous six-figure loan provided by United’s managing director through a Dubai-based company on October 15. Both sums are believed to have been used for immediate operating costs at Elland Road.

Leeds were the subject of a different takeover bid just two weeks ago, with Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity and ex-Manchester United employee Mike Farnan heading up a consortium who offered £7m for an 80 per cent stake.

United rejected the offer outright despite club legend Lucas Radebe revealing that he was backing the group and describing a boardroom position at Elland Road as his “dream scenario”.

Haigh’s consortium have attempted to actively involve Radebe by offering United’s former defender the position of international ambassador. The proposal was sent to Radebe and his agent via email on Saturday morning.

Farnan, meanwhile, indicated that he and his group were still interested in acquiring shares in United, tweeting on Saturday: “Lucas and team totally surprised by this mornings announcement? Have written seeking clarification.”

Adam Forshaw is unveiled at Elland Road. Picture: Andrew Varley.

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