Dubai-based Gulf Finance House Capital is "believed to be just days away" from confirming a £52M ($83M) takeover of League Championship club Leeds United, according to Ashley Hammond of GULF NEWS. If the bid is successful, the company would secure current owner Ken Bates' 72.85% share of the club. It is also expected that the private-equity firm would gain ownership of the club's Elland Road stadium and Thorp Arch training ground. Any announcement, expected this week, would put the "wayward Championship strugglers back on path toward Premier League football, after eight years in the doldrums." Leeds Manager Neil Warnock revealed that he’s already been told, by prospective owners, to "ready a wishlist of new players for the January transfer window" (GULF NEWS, 11/11).
The New Zealand Rugby Union said that Super Rugby clubs Crusaders and Hurricanes "will have new operators next year," according to the NEW ZEALAND HERALD. A mix of provincial unions and private investors, "will manage the two teams after expressions of interest were sought for the licences a year ago." The Hurricanes will be controlled by a Wellington group including Wellington Rugby, former Hurricanes Directors Paul Collins and Liz Dawson, and businessman Gareth Morgan and his Welnix group, the owners of the Wellington Phoenix football team. The NZRU and a Crusaders region consortium "have agreed in principle a licence arrangement to operate the Crusaders franchise and a final contract is expected to be signed within a month" (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 11/12). RADIO NEW ZEALAND reported the Hurricanes will be half-owned by the Wellington Rugby Football Union, a fourth-owned by former Brierley Investments boss Paul Collins and the remainder held by Welnix and Forsyth Morrison. The NZRU "will continue to contract the players and coaching staff" (RNZ, 11/12). FAIRFAX NZ NEWS wrote Morgan "proudly donned his Hurricanes jersey and hinted his sporting philanthropy could extend further to Wellington cricket and netball franchises." Morgan said that he was "not allowed to reveal how much Welnix was spending on the Hurricanes, but the 12.5% stake suggests a minimum of NZ$250,000 ($204,000) a year." Morgan said, "We're doing this for the Wellington region. These things are not massive earners and will never be massive earners." He added: "But it's really important to get them on a sustainable financial footing, so there's certainty amongst the players and the guys in the admin. To do that, we have to bulk up and share resources" (FAIRFAX NZ NEWS, 11/13).
PROBLEMS AT THE TOP: The WALL STREET JOURNAL blog Deal Journal Australia's Lucy Craymer wrote New Zealand "may have the world's most-successful national rugby union team, the All Blacks, but its governing body is struggling to attract investment in the sport at a regional level." Last year, in addition to the Hurricanes, the NZRU announced it was selling the operating licenses for the Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs. New Zealand hosted, and won, the 2011 Rugby World Cup, "revitalizing support for the game Down Under." The teams "are all household names in rugby mad New Zealand, but with the country still emerging from a '09 recession, ticket sales are down as fans choose to watch matches on TV rather than pay relatively high prices to attend games." The country's small stadiums "also limit returns." Furthermore, the NZRU "has so far struggled" to make the Super Rugby competition "commercially viable" (WSJ, 11/12).
Former Scottish Third Division Rangers Manager Walter Smith has returned to the club for the third time in his career after "accepting an invitation" to become a non-exec director, according to Richard Wilson of the HERALD SCOTLAND. Smith will be joined by businessman Ian Hart, who has "agreed to a similar offer." Both men will "take up their positions with immediate effect." Smith has been considering the offer for several weeks and was adamant that "he will not play any role in the football operation, since he does not want to overshadow his friend and protege," Manager Ally McCoist. The board appointments are "also significant since they represent a show of support and commitment to the current owners ahead of the launch of a share issue." Roadshows with potential institutional investors will begin this week, before fans are "invited to buy stakes in the club" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 11/12).
CELEBRATED RETURN: The SCOTSMAN reported that the move was "a huge coup" for CEO Charles Green, who has been "trying to bring Smith on board" since he launched a takeover bid hours after Green's Sevco Scotland company initially took control at Ibrox in July. Smith described his appointment as "a great privilege" (SCOTSMAN, 11/11). Smith: "I must make it clear, however, that I will not be playing any role in the day-to-day running of the club or the team. It’s the manager’s job to run the team and the chief executive’s job to run the club’s affairs." McCoist: “I am delighted to see Walter involved in the club again. He has done it all and is a Rangers man through and through. His presence will be a huge benefit” (Scotland DAILY RECORD, 11/12).
SCOTTISH NATIONAL TEAM COACH: The SCOTSMAN reported that former Scotland captain Graeme Souness has "ruled himself out of the running" for the Scotland national team coaching job and has "thrown his backing behind" former player, coach and Manager Joe Jordan instead. Asked if he would be open to an approach from the Scottish Football Association, Souness said: “No, it’s not for me. I think your man is Joe Jordan. He would be my choice if I was making the decision" (SCOTSMAN, 11/12).