Massimo Cellino was flying into England today to officially seal his takeover of Leeds United after a remarkable defeat of the Football League.
The Italian businessman will end an unprecedented saga which began more than two months ago when he formally acquires a 75 per cent share in Leeds from Gulf Finance House later this week. The 57-year-old was in Sardinia on Saturday when Tim Kerr QC, the independent lawyer hearing his appeal against the Football League, overturned a decision to ban him from buying United and cleared the way for Cellino to complete his takeover.
The governing body attempted to block his buy-out after an Italian court found him guilty of tax evasion but Kerr ruled that the conviction was not “dishonest” and did not breach the Football League’s Owners and Directors Test. Cellino’s company, Eleonora Sport, is now preparing to take hold of a controlling interest at Elland Road after negotiating a deal which will eventually cost upwards of £30million.
He plans to be at tomorrow’s match against Watford at Vicarage Road, the first of six remaining league games for Leeds this season, and restructuring at Elland Road is expected to begin quickly once the formalities of his takeover are finalised. Cellino is to take up the position of president at Elland Road, the same role he holds at Italian club Cagliari.
United managing director David Haigh, who will become chief executive under Cellino, said: “I have met with many potential investors and worked closely with them and I realised very quickly that Massimo is someone who has the attributes to take this club forward.
“He has a proven track record in Italy and I believe the introduction of Eleonora Sport, coupled with Massimo’s drive and determination, will be key to a successful and sustainable future.”
Kerr’ verdict was made public at 3pm on Saturday, less than an hour after Leeds lost 1-0 to Wigan Athletic.
Manager Brian McDermott said: “It gives me hope that things will get better. He’ll lead the football club, I’m sure about that, he’s owned another club for 22 years so he’s been consistent and he’s got clout – financial clout. That’s something we haven’t had.”