Leeds United: Fans group warns of "hostile reaction" to rival takeover bids

Elland Road crowd
Elland Road crowd
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The head of Leeds Fans United said today that the group was confident of securing a period of exclusivity to buy out Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino and warned that rival takeover bids would generate a "hostile" reception from the club's support.

Dylan Thwaites, the chief executive of Leeds Fans United (LFU), said Cellino had promised that he would only consider offers “from the fans" amid signs of alternative interest in the Italian's majority stake.

Cellino offered to sell his shares to LFU during a meeting at Elland Road last Friday and Thwaites insisted he was confident of securing a written guarantee of exclusivity, allowing the group to push ahead with a takeover.

The YEP understands that Cellino is planning to meet another potential bidder in London today following a separate approach over the weekend.

But Thwaites said: "At our meeting on Friday Massimo was absolutely clear that he was only selling to fans. Indeed, when we asked if we could involve any of the other third parties we have been working with, he was adamant that he would only sell to Leeds fans.

"This clearly gives us an exclusive position. Of course, as professionals we need this signing and we expect to have that shortly."

LFU - established at the start of this year with the original intention of buying a minority shareholding in United - is still to secure a fixed asking price from Cellino and has not yet commented on where it plans to source the cash for a buy-out which is likely to cost tens of millions of pounds.

Cellino, however, appears ready to abandon Elland Road after 18 turbulent and controversial months as owner.

The 59-year-old made his offer to LFU after coming in for sustained abuse from the Elland Road crowd during Thursday's 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

Leeds fell to 19th in the Championship on the back of that result.

Cellino is also under pressure from the Football League after the governing body disqualified him from running Leeds until June of next year due to his recent conviction for tax evasion in Italy.

He is currently appealing that ban.

Thwaites expects Cellino to grant LFU exclusivity, thereby preventing other parties from buying the club, saying: “We have found all of our dealings with Massimo to be straightforward and we don’t go along with the stereotype some people seem to have of him.

“I think he'll have noted the massive upturn in positivity that his decision to sell to us has created and will not want Leeds United to return to the dark place it was just a few days ago."

Asked about rival interest, Thwaites said: "It’s Leeds United, there are always rumours.

"Massimo is in London having a few days with his family. It's entirely reasonable for him to see old friends and talk about Leeds United.

"But I think it would be crazy for anyone to seek to steal this deal from the Leeds fans. The level of hostility generated would be a death blow to any sensible bid plan.”

Cellino's UK firm Eleonora Sport Ltd holds a stake of around 77 per cent in United.

Former owner Gulf Finance House controls the remaining equity and has not commented on whether it would consider selling its share.