Leeds United: Cellino still waiting for an answer

Massimo Cellino
Massimo Cellino
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Massimo Cellino’s takeover of Leeds United suffered another delay last night as a decision on his appeal against the Football League failed to materialise.

Expectation of announcement yesterday came to nothing, despite Cellino being told on Thursday that Tim Kerr QC, the independent lawyer judging the case, would hand down his judgement at 6pm.

Neither Cellino’s lawyers, Mishcon de Reya, nor the Football League would comment on the delay or the reason for it by the YEP understands that the League favoured postponing a ruling until after today’s game between United and Wigan Athletic.

Leeds sold their full allocation of 4,000 tickets for this afternoon’s televised match and the League is believed to have held concerns that an announcement on Cellino’s takeover last night would increase the risk of trouble or disturbances among the crowd at the DW Stadium.

Both the governing body and Cellino are waiting for Kerr to rule on whether the Football League was right to reject Cellino’s £25m takeover of Leeds on March 24.

Cellino failed the organisation’s Owners and Directors Test after a court in Sardinia found him guilty of tax evasion last month.

His legal team have fought the League’s verdict, claiming that Cellino remains innocent under Italian law until all appeals against his conviction are concluded.

Kerr listened to the arguments at a six-hour hearing in London on Monday but reserved judgement until a later date. Cellino’s camp were instructed on Thursday afternoon to expect a decision around 6pm yesterday but the 57-year-old is yet to learn the outcome.

Leeds and their owner, Gulf Finance House, have been waiting for more than two months to discover whether Cellino’s attempted purchase of a 75 per cent stake in Leeds will go ahead as planned.

The Cagliari president has already paid GFH a first instalment of £6m for the shares and his company, Eleonora Sport Limited, provided the club with funding during January and February.

Cellino has other routes of appeal if Kerr upholds the Football League’s stance but a rejection from the QC would force him and GFH to seriously consider the option of seeking new buyers.

His contract with GFH gives him and Eleonora Sport the right to decide who his 75 per cent should be sold to in the event that Cellino’s takeover fails.

Together Leeds, a consortium fronted by ex-Manchester United International managing director Mike Farnan, have been speaking with representatives of Cellino throughout this week with a view to joining his buy-out of Leeds or stepping into acquire his shares in United should Kerr find against him.

But GFH is more likely to look to an unnamed Malaysian party who seem increasingly keen on mounting a bid to take control at Elland Road if Cellino’s bid falls by the wayside.

Rumours of interest from the Far East have grown this week, though the identity of those behind firm interest from Malaysia is not clear.

The YEP has been told that relatives of Vincent Tan, the owner of Cardiff City, discussed the possibility of investing in United last year but they are not thought to be involved with the new prospective bidders.

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