Our members have been contacting us in increasing numbers over the last few days with their concerns about the most recent stories circulating regarding the proposed takeover. We believe a number of their worries about recent developments are valid, and wish to raise these with the club on their behalf.
Stories in the media this week have suggested that a takeover deal could be completed this weekend, while others have claimed that the deal is now for a ‘phased takeover,’ with Ken Bates remaining involved at least until the end of the season. We have put these scenarios to our own contacts on both sides of the deal, and we have been told that while the timeframe of this weekend seems unlikely, there is a chance that Mr Bates will stay on as a partner with Gulf Finance House Capital.
This would obviously represent a complete turnaround from when we were told by GFHC’s representative on October 8th that, “They intend this deal to be a full takeover of Leeds United. Ken Bates will leave the club and David Haigh will take control.”
This raises a number of questions about GFHC’s intentions and true capabilities. Why should the deal change from a takeover to a partnership/phased takeover in the space of a month? How effective is a partnership likely to be, after six months of apparently difficult negotiations to reach this stage? Are GFHC no longer able to finance a full takeover of the club, and if not, what financial support will they be able to provide to Neil Warnock in January?
We would like to remind Mr Bates that in his programme notes for the game against Blackburn, he wrote that he is, “determined that when I move on my legacy will be that the club is in safe hands and will take Leeds United to the next level.” We would ask Mr. Bates whether GFHC, having negotiated for six months for a takeover, yet now seemingly only able to partially complete a deal, represent the best available chance of securing that legacy.
We know that there are other groups with an interest in buying Leeds United who continue to closely monitor the situation. At LUST, we have continued our work to find ways of building a better future for Leeds United, and we have spoken to the representatives of at least one consortium who we are confident would have the financial resources and ambition we need in new owners. We are aware of other parties who have themselves been in contact with Leeds United, and that these parties can also provide the resources necessary to back the manager and build the club going forward.
Our understanding is that a significant barrier to these parties coming forward with bids is the continued involvement and exclusivity rights of GFHC. While we understand that the exclusivity period must be respected, it has been reported by the BBC (see 1611) that this period ends in mid-November, and we would ask Mr. Bates to consider whether it is not time to fully explore other opportunities for investment. If, after six months of negotiations, the best deal that GFHC can afford is a ‘phased takeover,’ we believe our members would be right to be ask whether that is an effective solution to the club’s problems, especially when other fully funded parties remain interested in the future of the club.
With every week of the season that passes, we believe the need to bring an end to the takeover saga becomes more pressing. The next transfer window is crucial to Neil Warnock, while off the pitch our financial analysis raised serious questions about the club’s ability to continue without investment. With league attendances twice already falling below 20,000, we are concerned about how funds will be found to drive progress on the pitch. We believe that there are good options available at the present moment to secure a successful future for Leeds United, and we urge Mr. Bates to stay true to his promise to leave the club in safe hands.
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