Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Leeds Fans United proposed takeover

I know this is emotional ground, because a lot of Leeds United followers would love to see the club fan owned.

I'm an advocate of fan ownership and there seem to be few clubs where this would be more appropriate than Leeds United, who have a massive, passionate fanbase and a recent history of poor ownership.

I don't have any agenda or allegiance here, although a few will inevitably say otherwise. I've spoken to Dylan Thwaites previously and he seemed a decent man with good intentions.

However, I am cynical, as some have accused me of being on Twitter. I think journalists have to be.

On Friday, LFU announced it had reached an agreement in principle to buy Massimo Cellino's majority stake in the club. This followed a meeting between the Italian and LFU's Sharon Reid, though not with Thwaites as I understand it.

Cellino was feeling brittle and emotional following the reaction he had received from the home fans at Elland Road during the 2-0 defeat by Blackburn Rovers on Thursday night.

The level of vitriol shocked him and he decided overnight that he would be willing to sell. He feared for his safety; his wife, who had moved to a rented house in Belgravia in London, did not want to return; and Cellino was beginning to have serious doubts about his ability to deliver success.

So this was the background to the meeting. And Cellino's response to LFU was basically "if you can pay me the money then I will sell to you."

He didn't see this as being so strong as an agreement in principle, but I guess this depends on semantics. And he was surprised when LFU came out all guns blazing in the press, I'm told.

LFU are aware that there are other parties who are actively interested in buying the club and they want to ward them off, before committing money to a potentially losing cause or being used as a pawn, hence they want a legally binding exclusivity agreement in writing.

This would mean that Cellino could not negotiate with other parties during a certain period of time. My understanding is that the Italian is not willing to do that, but let's wait and see.

If you were him, would you sign such an agreement, potentially kiboshing a sale to another party?

LFU seem to have been a little hasty with their announcement, though perhaps they hoped it would really get the ball rolling and bring other investors on board.

They admit £500,000 has been pledged so far and that several "high net worth individuals" have shown an interest. They are also talking to institutional investors.

So this is very much a fundraising stage, hardly a "poised to go".

Thwaites also talked about using a "debt deferral system" to raise cash, so that loans could be paid back with interest "when we get in the Premier League".

Now, Leeds fans must be tired of hearing that presumption after it has been espoused by a procession of owners, including Cellino. "When we get in the Premier League": unfortunately easier said than done.

Thwaites says Leeds' value, in terms of equity, as stated at Companies House, is £30million. But the playing squad needs revamping and the club doesn't own its own stadium or training ground.

There are also other outstanding debts, running costs and a whole host of potentially expensive legal cases in process.

Thwaites believes LFU could "probably" complete the takeover within three months. And we will have to hope so.

Because Sam Byram is out of contract in the summer and I'm told the one real jewel in the playing squad, Lewis Cook, has a clause in his contract stating he can leave if the club is not promoted this season, which, let's face it, is not going to happen.

The mood Cellino is in at the moment, he doesn't want to invest any more of his own money in the club. He's hurt and has decided he wants out, at the right price.

There is a worrying potential for decline. So let's hope something positive does happen in the coming months.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that Dylan Thwaites and his crowd do not represent the majority of Leeds United Fans. Last night a Face Book appeared called Cellino In at lunch time today this site had over 1500 signed up. Today over 200+ e-mails have been sent to the Club for Cellino, showing support and askng hin NOT TO SELL. There is now a rapid ground swell of support for Cellino. Fans are angry that Thwaites has given cellino an impression that he speaks for a large number of Fans. The Fans were also angry at the chant against Cellino last Thursday. It is hoped that the numerous E-Mails and the FB page Cellino In and the 2 x Petitions which are now started. We need MEDIA to pick this up and give us coverage, similar to that given to LFU.