Leeds United: LFU to seek Cellino asking price and exclusivity

NAME YOUR PRICE: Leeds United chairman Massimo Cellino. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
NAME YOUR PRICE: Leeds United chairman Massimo Cellino. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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The supporters group told they can purchase Leeds United from owner Massimo Cellino will today look to determine the price the Italian wants for his majority stake in the club.

Cellino told Leeds Fans Utd (LFU) on Friday that he was willing to sell them his controlling interest in United, having grown disillusioned on the back of fan unrest at his ownership.

Anger towards Cellino - currently fighting a second Football League disqualification for tax evasion - scaled new heights at Elland Road on Thursday during a defeat to Blackburn and the 59-year-old responded by offering to go.

LFU has long held the ambition of raising £8million to 10million in order to get a voice on Leeds’ board, but is now preparing to work towards a far larger amount in order to buy Cellino out.

Cellino has so far failed to provide the figure he will be seeking to move on but has said he will leave without profit and told LFU he wishes such a move to be seen as his legacy to the club’s fans.

The YEP understands, however, that Cellino is due to speak with another party interested in buying Leeds in London today following a separate approach over the weekend.

Cellino’s decision to sell, confirmed by the former Cagliari owner to the BBC and also by LFU, could trigger a bidding war but LFU are starting the process of seeking a period of exclusivity in order to try and finalise a deal.

During its infancy LFU had discussions with Oscar-winning actor and celebrity Leeds fan Russell Crowe, himself an owner of a fan-owned club in the shape of Australian rugby league side South Sydney.

Crowe said earlier this year that he had decided against a personal purchase of the club after a long period of consideration, but encouraged fans to support LFU in its work and it is understood that he is on a list of potential investors LFU will try and speak to over the coming days.

LFU has also sold more shares to supporters - at £100 a time - since Friday’s statement than it did on its launch day.

Known in Italy as the ‘King of Corn’ owing to his background in agriculture, Cellino purchased his 75 per cent controlling interest in Leeds from Gulf Finance House in April 2014, having initially moved in during the January of that year.

His first move was to sack manager Brian McDermott, only to reverse his decision when he was made aware that he did not have the right to do so with his takeover having not been rubber-stamped at that point.

Six managers have occupied the manager’s office since then, with the ongoing chaos in the dugout one of the factors leading to fan unrest.

Despite his decision to sell, Cellino remains intent on fighting his Football League ban, issued under its Owners’ and Directors’ rules, with Cellino having being convicted of failing to pay the required tax on a Land Rover in Italy.

He has three further criminal cases outstanding against him but remains in day-to-day charge of Leeds until his appeal is heard. If found guilty on appeal, he will be banned from having involvement with the club until June 2016.

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