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Saudi millionaire launches rival bid for Leeds United

Neil Warnock

Neil Warnock

  • by Phil Hay
 

GFH Capital’s bid to buy Leeds United will come under pressure from a rival offer from Saudi Arabia unless the Dubai-based firm completes its takeover before the end of the month.

An alternative proposal backed by Saudi Arabian money is due to be made in the next three weeks if GFH Capital fails to finalise its protracted attempt to assume control of Leeds.

United look destined to fall into the hands of the private equity company after almost six months of negotiations and GFH Capital expects to sign off a deal which would see it acquire a 100 per cent stake in the Championship club.

But reports over the weekend named American millionaire Preston Haskell IV – a real estate entrepreneur worth upwards of £150million – as another potential buyer, and the YEP has been told that the possibility of a late but serious Saudi offer has grown substantially in the past fortnight.

GFH Capital is currently protected by an exclusivity clause negotiated with Leeds in June but the firm has refused to confirm when that clause expires amid claims that the agreement is set to end as early as tomorrow.

It is understood that the Saudi group plan to approach United owner and majority shareholder Ken Bates before the start of December if GFH Capital’s buy-out remains incomplete. According to sources at GFH Capital, the company was hopeful of concluding its takeover this week.

But a contact involved with the proposed Saudi bid confirmed last night that the group were still watching events at Elland Road having pondered the option of investing in Leeds throughout the summer.

“It’s a very credible alternative,” the contact told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “They’ve got more than enough money to buy Leeds and if that doesn’t happen then I’d expect them to buy another major English club.”

The Saudi bidders are believed to favour the option of taking full control of Leeds at the end of the season, with a full English campaign ahead of them. The source said the group would most likely provide “substantial bridging funding” to assist United in the January transfer market and support the club through the rest of this season.

GFH Capital also plans to provide cash for manager Neil Warnock in January and have repeatedly stressed the need to conclude its takeover before the winter window opens.

Leeds fell to 18th position in the Championship over the weekend after suffering a 6-1 defeat to Watford. The club have gone six league games without a win since beating Barnsley at Elland Road on October 6.

GFH intends to take full control of Leeds in a deal which would see Bates depart Elland Road soon after completion. The firm plans to retain long-standing club chief executive Shaun Harvey.

A source with the company again expressed confidence in its bid last night, saying: “Everyone is working as hard as they can to do what needs to be done. There’s nothing stopping this deal.”

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