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SBD Global/November 22, 2012/Franchises

GFH Capital's Leeds Takeover Is Finalized; Bahrain-Based Bank Takes Over Dec. 21

League Championship Leeds United Owner Ken Bates announced Bahrain-based investment bank GFH Capital will complete a 100% takeover of the club on Dec. 21, according to Mark Walker of the London DAILY MAIL. Bates, 80, who took control of the club nearly eight years ago, "confirmed the first part of the takeover had been completed." Bates added that he will stay on as chairman until the end of the season to "help the new owners during a transitional period." Bates told Yorkshire Radio: "We have now completed all the negotiations and investigations with GFH, and we’ve now completed the first part of the purchase and that happened at 10.30pm last night [Tuesday night]." Bates also confirmed that he will be "taking on a new role as club president at the end of the season," while GFH representative David Haigh would be "joining the club’s board immediately," with three more new directors in place before Christmas (DAILY MAIL, 11/21). The BBC reported Leeds confirmed that the new owners "have been financially supporting the club since entering an exclusivity period." The takeover will "end a protracted period of uncertainty that began at the end of May" when Leeds announced it was in investment talks (BBC, 11/21). In London, Roger Blitz reported "terms were not revealed, although people with knowledge of the deal said a cash transaction in the region of £44m had been agreed and that the club had no bank debts" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 11/21).

QUESTIONS RAISED: THE NATIONAL reported questions "had been raised over the funding model" GFH Capital, a subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, had planned. Last month, the company "faced scrutiny over whether the purchase would be compatible with Sharia principles." However, the club confirmed it "had entered a one-month transitional period," which, subject to approval by the English Football League, would see GFH Capital becoming 100% shareholders (THE NATIONAL, 11/21). The London TELEGRAPH reported Bates said, "I can say although the negotiations have taken a very long time, the benefit of that is that, unlike some overseas owners, who have gone in blind like a bull in a china shop and made a complete mess of the club after taking over, this six-month courtship if you like, for want of a better phrase, has given them (GFH) enough opportunities to see how Leeds United works." Long periods of silence from both the club and GFH since has "infuriated some fans," while Leeds Manager Neil Warnock said that he would "only be able to mount a serious promotion challenge with the backing of new owners" (TELEGRAPH, 11/21).

SPEAKING A GOOD GAME: The YORKSHIRE EVENING POST wrote in a live blog Wednesday that Leeds United Supporters' Trust Chair Gary Cooper said, “It’s great that the deal’s done and a lot of expectation has been realised GFH Capital have spoken a really good game and all I hope is that their actions are as impressive. But I do fear that a lot of supporters are going to have a problem with Ken Bates remaining as chairman and then becoming president. That could make things difficult.” Leeds United Supporters Club Chair Ray Fell said, “Time will tell how this takes its course but we’ll all be hoping for a new beginning. The fans will be delighted to see this go through and I sincerely hope that it signals a change in fortunes for the team and the manager” (YORKSHIRE EVENING POST, 11/21).
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