Austin's Leeds on verge of Gulf takeover
LEEDS, England (AFP) — English Championship outfit Leeds United, the club of Jamaican Rodolph Austin, is set to become the latest to come under Gulf financial control after a Bahrain-based investment bank agreed a takeover deal, both parties have announced.
The takeover by GFH Capital, a subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, understood to be worth around £50 million ($75 million, 63 milion euros), has been in the pipeline for nearly six months but the bank has finally given Leeds owner Ken Bates the assurances they have the funds to complete the transaction.
Bates, who who took control of "sleeping giants" Leeds in 2005, said: "It's 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."
GFH Capital announced last month that they had signed an exclusive agreement to lead a takeover of Leeds after they had notified the Bahrain and Kuwaiti stock exchanges.
Deputy chief executive officer David Haigh 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."
There had been speculation that GFH's Islamic background could have been a stumbling block to any deal, but director and chief investment officer Salem Patel insisted that the operation of the club would not be hindered by Shari'a law.
"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'a 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."
Bates, 80, has become increasingly unpopular with the fans due to a perceived lack of investment in the playing squad, while the club have made pre-tax profits of more than £10 million since the summer of 2007.
When the takeover was announced last month, the chairman of the Leeds United Supporters Trust, Gary Cooper, described the development as "great news".
"The Trust has been calling for the potential buyer and the club to say something and this is what we've all been waiting to hear," he was quoted as saying on the website of the Yorkshire Post newspaper.
The acquisition comes against a backdrop of massive financial investment in football clubs by Gulf-based institutions, most notably at English Premier League champions Manchester City and French club Paris Saint-Germain.