Leeds United chairman Andrea Radrizzani wants to buy back Elland Road from its private owner before the end of the summer, lightening the load of the club’s annual rent payments.
Radrizzani told the YEP that either Leeds or his investment firm, Aser Group Holding, would look to activate a clause allowing United to repurchase a stadium which the club sold in 2004.
Leeds auctioned their ground 13 years ago amid severe financial pressures at Elland Road and are burdened with a seven-figure lease which runs to 2029 increases by three per cent every 12 months.
The current cost of annual rent stands at almost £2million, a sizeable portion of Leeds’ £30million turnover, and Radrizzani said he would significantly reduce the club’s expenditure by “bringing the asset within my group”.
Previous owners of Leeds have promised and failed to deliver on the repurchase of Elland Road - Massimo Cellino, who Radrizzani bought out in a full takeover on Tuesday, vowed to buy it back within six months of his own takeover in 2014 - but Radrizzani insisted that six months as a co-owner alongside Cellino had allowed him to “work on the future” and consider his options.
Cellino and Radrizzani negotiated a 50-50 split of shares in January with a view to Radrizzani securing 100 per cent control of United this month.
“In the bigger picture we are working on buying back the stadium which could happen in a few months, maybe by the end of the summer,” Radrizzani said.
“I’m very active already. It’s not that I’m kicking in today. I’ve been kicking in for a long time. With Massimo, in this period he let me work on the future. I wasn’t really involved too much in the day to day football. I could work to prepare for my time and my time is here.
“The club has to pay higher rent on Elland Road every year. We don’t know at the moment if it will be the club (who buy the stadium), me financing the club to do it or buying the property with another vehicle but the club for sure will be lighter and there will be a lot of cost-cutting by bringing the asset within my group, rather than a third-party owner.”
Elland Road is still understood to be owned by Jacob Adler, the Manchester businessman who bought it in November 2004.
The ground was sold to him by the Yorkshire consortium, headed by Gerald Krasner, who had taken control of Leeds earlier that year but were beset by financial problems. A 25-year lease and buy-back clause was negotiated as part of the sale.
United’s Thorp Arch training ground was also bought by Adler at the same time but the club’s right to repurchase that property elapsed in 2009 while Ken Bates was chairman. Leeds are tied to a lease of the Wetherby complex for another 12 years with a rent which increases annual.
Radrizzani, however, is understood to be drawing up plans for extensive work to the land surrounding Elland Road, including the construction of a new training centre by 2020.