Leeds United are a club in turmoil. Does Brian McDermott retain the confidence of United’s owner and what will happen if Massimo Cellino’s buy-out is rejected? Phil Hay looks at the key questions for the club and owner Gulf Finance House.
Massimo Cellino is reported to have loaned Leeds United up to £10m in advance of his takeover. How much money have the club borrowed from Mr Cellino and what has that money been used for? If his takeover is not approved by the Football League, when would this money be repaid and how would those payments be funded?
Implications if takeover fails to take place
Mr Cellino’s takeover is being discussed at a Football League board meeting today.
He is also due to face charges of tax evasion in Italy next Tuesday. If his takeover is not approved by the Football League, what does Gulf Finance House plan to do next? Is the bank aware of other potential buyers and is it prepared to negotiate with them? And would the bank be prepared to fund the club while another sale is negotiated?
In its last statement, published on February 25, the Football League said it was waiting for “further submissions” from both Gulf Finance House and Mr Cellino with regards to his takeover. Have Gulf Finance House and Mr Cellino supplied all the information requested? If not, which items of information are still outstanding?
It was reported last week that Gulf Finance House transferred a majority stake in Leeds United to the club’s chairman, Salah Nooruddin, in 2013 and then repurchased the shares in advance of the proposed sale of Leeds to Mr Cellino. When did these transactions take place and were the stock exchanges in Bahrain and Dubai informed about them? Was the Football League told of the change of ownership? What is Gulf Finance House’s exact shareholding at present and who else owns shares in the club?
The Football League is expected to wait until after next week’s court case involving Mr Cellino before deciding whether to approve his takeover. Has the governing body given Gulf Finance House, Mr Cellino or Leeds United any indication as to the date on which it plans to announce a decision?
How big are the club’s debts?
Club director Salem Patel has confirmed on record that Leeds United are losing money. On February 3 he said: “Like with most other football clubs, the club runs at a loss. It needs cash resources to be invested by its owners.” Exactly how big are Leeds United’s debts and how are the club servicing them? Is there any risk of administration if Mr Cellino’s takeover does not proceed?
How is the club being funded?
Mr Cellino has told the media that he is no longer willing to provide the club with money until his takeover is approved by the Football League. Is Gulf Finance House itself funding any of the operations at Leeds United and will the bank fund the club’s business in the interim?
Who’s in charge at Elland Road?
Who is in overall charge of affairs at Leeds United? Manager Brian McDermott says he is answering to Gulf Finance House but who precisely has the final say on business decisions at Elland Road? How much influence does Mr Cellino presently have and was he required to approve the recent signing of Jack Butland and Connor Wickham?
Leeds are in the bottom half of the Championship and 11 points behind the play-offs. Tuesday’s defeat to Reading was the club’s 14th of the league season. Does Brian McDermott retain the confidence of Gulf Finance House and Mr Cellino? Has he been given any assurances about his position going forward?
The role of Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt is still named as acting CEO on the club’s official website. We understand that he has not been involved at the club since he was sacked on January 31. Is Mr Hunt still an employee of Leeds United and if so, in what capacity?
GFH Capital’s statement yesterday: “Since it was announced on February 7 that a deal had been agreed for Eleonora Sport to purchase a 75 per cent stakeholding in the club, subject to Football League approval, we have been working closely with the governing body’s requests for information to satisfy the process.
“We know it is frustrating for our supporters but please rest assured that Eleonora Sport and GFH Capital are co-operating fully with the Football League’s requirements and are working towards a conclusion.
“GFH Capital remains in full control of Leeds United until such time that the share transaction is ratified by the Football League. We all want to see matters concluded as swiftly possible so we can concentrate on the future. David Haigh has left his role within GFH Capital in order to concentrate fully on his role as managing director of Leeds United and is responsible full-time for the day-to-day business operations. David has the full support of both GFH Capital and the club’s board. We would like to thank the Leeds United fans for your continued support.”