Leeds United: Fan ownership integral to takeover insists LFU

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Leeds Fans United (LFU) have revealed they are in discussions with parties interested in buying Leeds United, with fan ownership of a minority stake on the table.

They have also said that the publicity surrounding a potential fan takeover has caused potential “bad buyers” to reconsider buying the club.

Massimo Cellino said that he was willing to sell Leeds to LFU two weeks ago, but reneged on the agreement when the group sought exclusivity.

However, Cellino is now thought to be actively seeking to sell the club, something LFU confirmed.

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Chief executive Dylan Thwaites told The Square Ball podcast: “There are several parties that are interested, several good buyers. When we say good buyers, we mean ones who are happy to have fan engagement.

“If the argument was that he was trying to smoke out new buyers, it actually created so much smoke that it has driven away what we’d call ‘bad buyers’.

“People who did not want to involve the fans saw the appetite Leeds fans have had for this, and the response from the media. It’s opened up massive debate across the country.

“These bad buyers have now seen it would be very difficult to come into Leeds United and not involve the fans.

“We feel the playing field is now left with generally good buyers, or bad buyers who have reevaluated their involvement with the fans.

“I’ve had communication with Massimo since he pulled out, and it’s cordial and friendly. We’d like to go in with a third party, openly and pre-deal.”

When asked whether Red Bull, who have been repeatedly linked with a takeover, would constitute a bad buyer, Thwaites replied: “Do you call Red Bull a bad buyer?”

Both Thwaites and Sharon Reid, the group’s marketing, PR and infrastructure executive also said that Cellino does not seem to be interested in owning the club going forward.

Thwaites said: “[His regime] should be put in the past tense. He’s ready to go. I’d be astonished if he came back. He’s openly said that in the media.”

Reid added: “He said that in the supporters’ group meeting we had. He’s through.”

Thwaites said that the fact Cellino is now actively trying to sell the club has made their efforts to attract investment much easier.

He continued: “We’ve got it very openly that Massimo wants to sell the club and is trying to sell the club.

“That’s a massive change in seven days. That’s very helpful, because it allows us to have more substantive conversations about taking a minority stake with a third party ‘good buyer’.”

After the revelation that Cellino was willing to sell the club to the fans, there were considerable questions over whether LFU could fund a deal.

However, Thwaites was clear that had the group been granted exclusivity last week, they would have been able to see through the takeover.

He said: “We were probably looking at six months of exclusivity. With six months of exclusivity, under the time pressures Massimo was under with the Football League and other things, the ball would have been entirely in our court.

“If we’d have signed that exclusivity, we’d have become the owners of Leeds United – that’s my position.

“We’d have had the time to deliver what was a very deliverable plan.”

Speaking about the future of fan ownership at Leeds, Thwaites was exceptionally positive and said there was a good chance of it occurring in the next year.

“The fans will probably have a minority stake,” he said. “It’s more likely than not. I do not think a buyer would go ahead without some kind of fan involvement.

“We now know that we are capable of doing a minority or a majority position. We can do the minority very rapidly.”

Thomas Christiansen directs his players from the sidelines at Loftus Road on Saturday afternoon. 
Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Watch: Thomas Christiansen’s post-match press conference after Leeds United’s 3-1 win at QPR