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Volume 6 No. 212


Manchester United CEO David Gill will "stand down at the end of the season as he targets a new role" on UEFA’s exec committee, according to Burrows & Ducker of the LONDON TIMES. ManU Exec Vice Chair Ed Woodward "has been confirmed as the replacement" for Gill, who joined ManU from the tour operator First Holidays as financial director in '97 and became CEO in '03. Gill "will remain" a club director and continue as FA vice chairman. Although Woodward will assume the CEO’s responsibilities, dealing with issues such as transfer and contract negotiations, he will "continue to attend Premier League meetings." Gill’s "desire to earn a place" on UEFA’s exec committee, the organization’s main decision-making body, has "persuaded him that he cannot perform that role and his job at United to the highest standard, convincing him to stand down" (LONDON TIMES, 2/20). BLOOMBERG's Alex Duff reported Woodward "helped the Glazer family secure" a £790M leveraged buyout of ManU in '05 when he was a banker at JPMorgan. In a statement, ManU co-Chair Joel Glazer said Woodward "truly understands the club’s culture and what makes this club so treasured." In another change, Commercial Dir Richard Arnold "will become" group managing director. Woodward, who has worked for ManU since '07, and Arnold "signed sponsorship deals" with companies including Malaysian snack brand Mr. Potato and Chilean winemaker Concha y Toro (BLOOMBERG, 2/20). In a statement, Gill said, "It has been a very hard decision because I love this club and, as the fans' banner says, it is 'more than a religion'" (ManU). Glazer added, "I am very pleased he has agreed to remain on the board, so that his experience and counsel are not lost to us. I hope that the decision he has made will be to the benefit of the game in Europe as a whole, as he seeks election to UEFA's executive committee" (GUARDIAN, 2/20).

FERGUSON REACTS: ManU Manager Alex Ferguson said, "I have been at United for over 26 years and for 23 of those years my boss has been one of only two men: Martin Edwards, who brought me to the club, and David Gill. I have enjoyed working with both. David has been a magnificent chief executive. Of course, we have had a million arguments, but I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities: he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first" (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 2/20). REUTERS' Keith Weir reported fans and investors who have bought shares in the club "will be keen to see how Woodward gets on with Ferguson." Ferguson, 71, who has managed the club since '86, said that "he was sorry that Gill was leaving but welcomed the appointment of Woodward." Ferguson: "He is a young man with the energy and drive to help keep United at the forefront of the game and to help us maintain our success on the field" (REUTERS, 2/20).

WHAT NOW? Finance blog Andersred hedge fund manager Andy Green said, "Before this you had a clear division between the football club and the commercial operations run by Woodward. That [policy] has been very successful for Manchester United." He added: "Mr. Woodward is a financier who will now have to get down and dirty in the negotiations with clubs and footballers" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 2/20). In London, Jamie Jackson wrote on the GUARDIAN's The Sport Blog the timing of Gill's departure, described as a "big loss" to Ferguson, is "bound to intrigue others." The club is 12 points clear at the top of the Premier League, has an "enticingly poised" Champions League last-16 tie with Real Madrid to complete in a few weeks and is already into the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. As Gill "steps away with a second treble looming into view, aged just 55, many wonder, why now?" (GUARDIAN, 2/20).

League Championship club Leeds United owner GFH Capital has asked fans to "be patient" as it looks to secure new investment in the club, according to the BBC. The Dubai-based private equity group said that it is "not interested in selling a controlling share" in the club and rejected a bid from an unnamed individual last week. The group took over at Elland Road in December. Its protracted takeover, which began when Leeds announced it was in investment talks in May, has seen previous Owner Ken Bates "remain in the position of chairman" until the end of this season before becoming honorary president thereafter. Some supporters have been concerned that Bates could "yet step back into a more active role with the club" but GFH said this will not be happening (BBC, 2/20).