THE fate oF the Leeds United takeover was increasingly uncertain today amid claims that the buyers will walk away unless a sale is finalised before the end of the week.
The proposed purchase of Leeds by a Middle Eastern consortium appears to be on a knife-edge with sources at home and abroad indicating that the buy-out has reached a “make or break” stage after three months of talks.
Further discussions are planned in the next 48 hours and the brokers of the deal maintained their strict silence last night as doubts about the takeover continued to grow. GFH Capital Limited, the Dubai-based company fronting the planned buy-out, failed to answer a request by the Yorkshire Evening Post for clarification about the consortium’s intentions.
A contact at United’s end of negotiations played down the possibility of the process collapsing if talks before the weekend came and went without an agreement, saying the offer from the Middle East was “still there”, but the prospective new owners appear to be losing patience after failing to force the hand of current owner Ken Bates.
The identity of United’s would-be buyers has never been confirmed despite firm indications that a member of Bahrain’s ruling family, Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, is one of the individuals behind the approach made to Bates as far back as May.
Their bid has been led by GFH Capital – a private equity firm in Dubai – and two members of the company’s senior management team attended United’s Championship game against Wolverhampton Wanderers on August 18.
One of them, deputy chief executive David Haigh, was telephoned last night but did not respond.
The buyers and United have been bound by a confidentiality agreement ever since Leeds announced on June 26 that the Middle Eastern consortium had agreed an “exclusivity period” with the club and begun inspecting the accounts at Elland Road.
But a deal agreed in principle between the two sides has been delayed by a number of obstacles, including a wrangle over an indemnity clause protecting the investors from any unforeseen liabilities arising from the purchase of the club.
Legal experts say an indemnity clause is a standard feature of most deals involving the sale of a business.
The takeover appeared to be on the brink of collapse four weeks ago before a flurry of negotiations revived the process.
The consortium are said to see forthcoming discussions as a “very last attempt” to convince Bates to sell his 72.85 per cent stake.
A source close to the club told the YEP: “The deal’s still there to be done but it’s going to need movement on both sides.”