LEEDS fans have expressed their disappointment that owner Ken Bates will be staying on as president at Elland Road following the completion of the club’s takeover by Bahrain-based investment bank GFH Capital.
Bates, 80, announced this morning that GFH Capital will complete a 100 per cent takeover of the club on December 21 and that he will remain as chairman during a transitional period until the end of the season.
GFH Capital deputy chief executive David Haigh, a lifelong Leeds fan, will take a place on the board at Elland Road immediately with three more of the Middle East consortium’s representatives to join him before Christmas.
A new club chairman will be appointed by the new owners at the end of the season when Bates will become club president.
GFH Capital, who first entered into talks with Leeds in May, have already transferred money into the club and will be making further funds available to manager Neil Warnock, who will have the new owners’ full support.
“We’re very pleased the deal has finally been done and that six agonisingly-long months for Leeds United supporters can be put to an end,” Leeds United Supporters’ Trust chairman Gary Cooper told Press Association Sport.
“GFH Capital have spoken a wonderful game and made some very ambitious statements with regards to what they want to do with the club and we’re looking forward to seeing them put their plans into action.
“But there is one ‘but’. Why the continued involvement with Ken Bates? We’re not questioning the transitional period at all, that makes absolute sense.
“But my members are already asking me, going forward, why does the club need or want Ken Bates as president? His tenure at the club has not been one of success.
“He’s like marmite, you either love him or loathe him and he’s proved very divisive at this club.
“He’s done his best to discredit supporters’ groups, he’s called fans morons and dissidents and he’s sold all our best players.
“He’s a hell of a character, but he’s done nothing to endear himself to the supporters of Leeds United.
“GFH Capital now have the unenviable task of rebuilding the club’s relationship with the fans when appearing to be hand-in-hand with Ken Bates.”
Bates took control of Leeds in 2005, 18 months after he had sold his controlling shares in Chelsea to current owner Roman Abramovich.
He refused to reveal exactly who owned Leeds for the next six years, but amid mounting pressure from the game’s authorities announced in April last year that he had bought 72.85% of the club’s shares from Geneva-based Forward Sports Fund for an undisclosed sum.
Bates’ previous allegiance to Chelsea meant he never had the full support of the majority of Leeds fans and an uneasy relationship steadily deteriorated during almost eight years in charge.
Bates’ announcement ends an unsettling six-month period for the npower Championship club, who have slipped to 18th in the table after failing to win any of their last seven league matches.
He said: “I can say although the negotiations have taken a very long time, the benefit of that is that, unlike some overseas owners, who have gone in blind like a bull in a china shop and made a complete mess of the club after taking over, this six-month courtship if you like, for want of a better phrase, has given them (GFH) enough opportunities to see how Leeds United works.
“So you can look for a more Manchester United-type transition than we’ve seen at Blackburn, Portsmouth and other less fortunate clubs.”
He added: “We’ve made no secret of the fact we’ve been looking at additional partners and investors ever since I joined the club on January 21, 2005.
“There have been a number of reasons why it hasn’t succeeded before, one of them being there are so many liars, chancers and conmen attracted to football and it’s been a very slow, steady, careful process in weeding out those people and not letting them anywhere near Elland Road.”
Haigh said: “It gives us great pride today, to have completed the deal for Leeds United.
“We have today injected further funds into the club and now we look to the future and start the exciting journey to take Leeds United FC back into a prime position in English football once again.
“From a Leeds family myself and a supporter of the Whites since childhood, I know that football is at the very heart of the people of Leeds and the wider community.
“We want to thank all the fans in UK and around the world for their patience and support while the negotiations have been taking place. Let’s now march on together, taking the club back to the Premier League as soon as possible.”