Bates encouraged as Leeds takeover takes step forward

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THE takeover of Leeds United has moved a step closer after the Gulf investment bank bidding to take control provided the necessary proof of funds.

Talks over a possible change of ownership have been dragging on for more than five months between the Elland Road club and GFH Capital.

Delays in recent weeks had left supporters wondering if the much touted buy-out of United’s parent company, Leeds City Holdings, was destined never to become reality.

But a breakthrough seems to have been made after chairman Ken Bates, who owns a 72.85 per cent shareholding, was given confirmation that the money needed to close a deal, with a reported price of £52m, is in place.

Bates said: “It has been a long road, but we are in a good place. Both sides have been in talks over the last few days to finalise this deal. We are keeping focused and hope to complete very soon.”

The news that the money is in place means a substantial hurdle has been cleared.

GFH Capital announced last month that they had signed an exclusive agreement to lead a takeover of Leeds after they had notified the Bahrain stock exchange.

The firm, which is based in Dubai, completed due diligence into United’s accounts and operational set-up several weeks ago.

They also ploughed £2m into the club during the summer as part of their on-going attempts to take control.

GFH Capital’s deputy chief executive officer David Haigh, who is being tipped for a management role at Elland Road providing a deal can be struck, said: “With the money in place, we are poised to make this deal happen pending agreements and arrangements which are in the interests of the future of Leeds United – we need to make sure all the finer detail is addressed before trading signatures.

“Despite what has been said recently in media, both sides continue to talk regularly and continue to work hard to get the job done.”

Adding to the intrigue surrounding this deal in recent weeks has been that the purchase was being hindered by Shari’ah law, owing to GHF’s Islamic background.

However, as part of a joint statement issued on behalf of Leeds and GFH, Salem Patel, one of the firm’s directors who has been at a couple of recent games at Elland Road, said: “We understand there is some concern related to how Leeds United would be run under our stewardship.

“It remains important to be clear that Shari’ah law will not hinder this transaction, nor will it affect the future operations of the club.

“Our intention is to provide investment which will facilitate a successful and sustainable future for Leeds United on and off the pitch.”

United, who have posted a total profit of £10m over the last four financial years, host Birmingham City today sitting just one point outside the play-off places.

Leeds’s game at Huddersfield Town has reverted to a Saturday kick-off (November 1, 12.30pm) due to the concerns of West Yorkshire Police.

The game was selected for live Sky TV coverage the previous day but the crowd problems when Leeds visited Sheffield Wednesday eight days ago – which included an assault on home goalkeeper Chris Kirkland – have forced a re-think and the derby will be held as originally scheduled.

Leeds captain Peltier’s debt 
to Lee Clark: Page 3.