Leeds United: Ground deal high on Haigh’s agenda

David Haigh.
David Haigh.
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The consortium on the verge of taking charge of Leeds United have served the owners of Elland Road with notice of their intention to buy back the stadium, the Yorkshire Evening Post has been told.

A group of investors led by Leeds managing director David Haigh appear to be making initial steps towards purchasing the ground for £15million and bringing it under United’s control for the first time since 2004.

Haigh’s consortium – a group including Enterprise Insurance managing director Andrew Flowers – are on the verge of buying a majority stake in Leeds after agreeing a deal which will see them acquire a 75 per cent shareholding from current owner GFH Capital.

Their buy-out is dependent on Football League approval but the group have begun laying the ground for the second takeover of Leeds in the space of a year by opening transfer negotiations for St Etienne winger Max Gradel and starting the process of repurchasing United’s 94-year-old home.

Elland Road has been in private hands since United sold the property for £8million in the face of serious debts in 2004.

The freehold of the ground was bought by Manchester businessman Jacob Adler and later transferred to Teak Commercial Limited, an off-shore firm based in the British Virgin Islands.

Adler is believed to control Teak Commercial Limited but the company’s ultimate beneficiaries were not revealed when it acquired Elland Road in January 2005.

United negotiated a buy-back provision when they auctioned Elland Road nine years ago, a provision which runs until 2029 but becomes more financially punitive as the years pass.

The cost of repurchasing the ground increases annually and currently stands at £15m, while the cost of renting the stadium also rises by three per cent each October and has climbed to £1.4m since 2004. In total, Leeds have paid more than £10m in rent.

The long-term lease is a significant burden on United’s accounts and although the club have the right to use the ground as tenants for another 16 years – alongside an option to extend the lease for an additional 25 years – the financial benefit of buying Elland Road has long been clear.

GFH Capital, which secured a 100 per cent stake in Leeds from Ken Bates a year ago, made tentative noises about acquiring the stadium from Teak Commercial Limited when its takeover went through last December but the Dubai-based firm has failed to do so during its 12 months in charge and is poised to pass control of United to Haigh’s consortium in the coming weeks.

Haigh touched on the issue of Elland Road in an interview with BBC Radio Cornwall last week, saying: “Elland Road is legendary. It is our home. Elland Road will always be there. We want to acquire the stadium. We want to develop the stadium. But we also need to focus on the football to get us to the Premier League.”

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