New Leeds United Owner Massimo Cellino Pays Off Club's $840K Tax Bill
Italian businessman Massimo Cellino "has made his first steps as Leeds United owner towards easing the club's crippling financial woes by wiping out an unpaid tax bill" of more than £500,000 ($840,000) -- "to quash a winding-up petition," according to Leon Wobschall of the YORKSHIRE POST. The Italian agriculture magnate, who headed to Yorkshire after the final whistle of United's 3-0 loss to Watford on Tuesday, "has wasted no time in addressing the club's dire cash situation and is understood to have settled the tax demand." He is also "set to pay the remaining wages owed to players" -- who have received just 65% of their salaries for March -- within 24 hours. As well as owing players cash, a potentially far more serious development nine days ago saw U.K. tax authority HMRC "serve a petition against United after they failed to honour a tax bill of more than half a million pounds last month." Recent figures suggested that United "are haemorraghing cash to the tune" of up to £1M ($1.7M) a month, with the club "also settling another winding-up petition at the end of February" after repaying £1.5M ($2.5M) owed to Enterprise Insurance, Leed's shirt sponsor. Funds pumped into the club by Cellino "were used to pay off that particular liability, with the Italian's financial wherewithal having previously paid the club's running costs for February and January." Cellino "vowed that Leeds would never face the spectre of administration under his watch." He said, "I will never let Leeds go into administration. None of my companies have ever gone into administration and none of them ever will" (YORKSHIRE POST, 4/10). The INT'L BUSINESS TIMES' Tony Mogan reported Cellino "has been criticised for abandoning his responsibilities at Serie A club Cagliari in order to focus his attention on Leeds United." Cellino's decision "to immerse himself in the day to day workings of Leeds United has drawn criticism from former Cagliari goalkeeper Mario Ielpo." The Italian owner "is still looking to offload the Serie A club but has been accused of neglecting the struggling Italian outfit in favour of his new project in England." Ielpo said, "It is a really hard time, there is so much confusion. The team are now likely to fall into the fight against relegation" (IBT, 4/10). In London, Jamie Sanderson wrote Cellino "decided the best way to introduce himself to fans -- was by having a drink with them at the pub." Cellino "rocked up at the Old Peacock pub, not far from the stadium, to celebrate his new acquisition with a selection of the Leeds faithful." He reportedly "bought drinks for some fans before posing for pictures with them, just hours after completing the paperwork on the deal." Some Leeds fans "have also created a chant for their new owner and his penchant for a pin, to the tune of Amore: ‘When you’ve just bought a club, you go straight to the pub, that’s Cellino'" (METRO, 4/10).