Leeds United: Cellino keeping a quiet counsel

Massimo Cellino.
Massimo Cellino.
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Massimo Cellino was keeping his counsel last night with the Football League’s board preparing to hold more talks about his takeover of Leeds United.

The Italian’s 75 per cent buy-out of Leeds will feature prominently on the agenda at a meeting later today, the second time the Football League’s board have formally considered Cellino’s attempt to gain control of the Elland Road club.

Senior representatives of the governing body were given an update on Cellino’s protracted bid for United last month and are set to be briefed again ahead of a tax case involving the 57-year-old in Sardinia next week.

The Football League is not expected to make a decision on whether to approve or reject his takeover today and looks set to wait until a court in Italy rules on charges that Cellino – the owner and president of Serie A club Cagliari – avoided payment of 400,000 Euros on a luxury yacht he bought in 2010.

A guilty verdict at the end of Tuesday’s hearing would potentially see Cellino fail the Football League’s Owners and Directors Test, in turn collapsing his £25m buy-out of Leeds.

Cellino agreed a deal to purchase United through his company, Eleonora Sport Limited, on the last day of January and exchanged contracts with current Leeds owner Gulf Finance House on February 7, almost five weeks ago.

He was contacted by the YEP at his home in Miami yesterday but declined to discuss the takeover. “This is with the Football League,” Cellino said. “I can say no more for now.”

Cellino has loaned Leeds a sizeable seven-figure sum since agreeing terms with Gulf Finance House but he spoke out on Tuesday night to say that he would give the club no more cash until he secured Football League approval.

“It has been a black hole and things cannot carry on like this,” Cellino said. “I have to wait for the decision of the Football League before I put any more money in.

“I want to help Leeds and get to work but I cannot do any more until I am the owner.”

The Football League’s board are meeting in person today, though the governing body refused to say where the meeting will take place.

Both the organisation and Gulf Finance House are under growing pressure to bring the process to a conclusion with uncertainty consuming Leeds.

The club’s fight for a Championship play-off position appeared to end on Tuesday evening when they were beaten 4-2 at home by Reading at Elland Road, and beleaguered manager Brian McDermott said afterwards: “Everybody wants it to be done and dusted, quite frankly, so we all know where we are.”

GFH Capital – the private equity arm of Gulf Finance House which arranged the buy-out of former Leeds owner Ken Bates in 2012 – released a statement yesterday, saying: “We know it is frustrating for our supporters but please rest assured that Eleonora Sport and GFH Capital are co-operating fully with the Football League’s requirements

“GFH Capital remains in full control of Leeds until such time that the share transaction is ratified by the Football League. We all want to see matters concluded as swiftly possible so we can concentrate on the future.”

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