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leeds united latest: tuesday’s child is full of grace

leeds united latest: tuesday’s child is full of grace

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Another day has begun in the ongoing saga of Leeds United.

To see how far things got on Monday, have a read of yesterday’s updated post here; Tuesday will happen below.

UPDATE 11.10pm: GFH Capital have published a statement tonight on LeedUnited.com in response to the winding up petition filed by Andrew Flowers last Wednesday. The strongly worded statement has been released at the end of a day of negotiations involving Flowers and GFH, which were said by Phil Hay at 9.20pm to have gone on into the evening.

The statement describes the winding up petition as "an abuse of legal process" that sought to "influence the deliberations of the club’s owners and management in relation to the take-over negotiations", presumably in agreement with the Financial Times’ earlier assessment that the petition was being used as a "bargaining chip." It also calls into question Flowers’ "claims to support the club". 

The statement reads:

STATEMENT FROM GFH CAPITAL
Statement from the club’s owners…

The winding up petition issued by Enterprise Insurance, a sponsor whose managing director, Andrew Flowers, claims to support the club, is misconceived and an abuse of legal process.  It is being vigorously contested by the club’s lawyers.

As there were no valid grounds to issue the petition, we can only assume that Mr. Flowers is seeking to influence the deliberations of the club’s owners and management in relation to the take-over negotiations.

Under the ownership of GFH Capital Leeds United has always met its financial obligations, and it will continue to do so.

UPDATE 11.30pm: The statement has been updated on the website; the middle paragraph above – beginning ‘As there were no valid grounds…’ and ending with ‘…take-over negotiations’ was removed.

As noted below, the winding up petition was filed last Wednesday as the initial Sport Capital bid by Flowers and David Haigh broke down, and although it had been rumoured, the news was only confirmed by the FT tonight. Discussions between GFH and Flowers and Mike Farnan about their bid to buy the club ahead of Massimo Cellino seem to have gone ahead despite the petition.

UPDATE 5.10pm: The Financial Times is reporting (behind a paywall here) that on January 29th Andrew Flowers filed a winding up petition against Leeds United over an alleged unpaid debt. The petition will be heard in the High Court in March. January 29th was the day after Sport Capital’s bid to buy the club from GFH collapsed.

Flowers is known to have put money into the club over the last year over and above the Enterprise Insurance, believed to have been used for running costs, and paid its sponsorship fee up front specifically to meet Ross McCormack’s increased contract in August.

Enterprise, along with Flamingo Land, withdrew their sponsorship in protest at the sacking of Brian McDermott, and were said at one point to be planning legal moves that would recover sponsorship fees paid already and prevent the club using their logos. 

The FT story describes the petition as a "bargaining chip," that gives the court a say in Leeds United’s assets. "In debt proceedings," they say, "Courts potentially have the power to reverse the sale of assets, freeze bank accounts and even order an administration or liquidation."

The article continues:

Mike Smith, a corporate insolvency expert from Jameson Smith, said the insurers’ [Flowers] move was “risky”, since the debt must be proved in law or costs could be awarded against it.

Unless settled, the petition must also be advertised in the London Gazette. “Other creditors can use the same petition to pursue their own debts so I suspect it is solely being used as a bargaining chip to apply pressure to the board of Leeds United,” he said.

The FT article also contains detail of the combined consortium’s bid for Leeds, as well as a summary of the club’s financial situation to June 2012:

They are understood to be offering around £30m in staged payments. GFH bought Leeds in December 2012 for £17m from Ken Bates, the former Chelsea owner.

Leeds United had revenues of £31m in the year to June 2012 and made a pre-tax loss of £2.3m, balanced by £2.5m in net player sales. Its debts were largely to linked businesses, but it had already received more than £13m in advanced ticket income and sponsorship and catering revenue until 2017. It does not own its 40,000-seat stadium.

Update 6pm: BBC Leeds and reporter Adam Pope have more information about the status of Massimo Cellino’s deal to buy the club, and ‘seven-figure’ payments; Phil Hay since clarified that the payment was £1.5m, and a loan:

Reports say Cellino claim he has paid #lufc owners GFH Capital for shares in club last Friday.

— West Yorkshire Sport (@WYSDaily) February 4, 2014

#lufc @bbcleeds told no deal is signed yet and no money has been paid by Cellino or any of his companies for any shares in the club.

— West Yorkshire Sport (@WYSDaily) February 4, 2014

#lufc @bbcleeds told a seven figure sum was paid by Cellino. However, it is not clear what this is for & could be a loan or working capital

— West Yorkshire Sport (@WYSDaily) February 4, 2014

Further to @BBCLeeds tweets, payment from Celljno to Leeds last week was a loan of £1.5m. More debt

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 4, 2014

Cellino hasn’t paid any money for #lufc shares yet, or none that’s cleared.

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 4, 2014

Adam added, about the negotiations believed to be taking place today:

#lufc No further news on meeting between Sport Capital/Together Leeds consortium with GFHC for a majority stake bid to rival Cellino.

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 4, 2014

UPDATE 9.20pm: Phil Hay tweets that talks have been continuing this evening; no news has come out yet, though:

No significant TO update yet. Talks involving Flowers etc still going on an hour ago or so. #lufc

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 4, 2014

UPDATE 7pm: Phil Hay tweets some background on Cellino’s bid; he had considered a bid for Sheffield Wednesday; his first visit to Thorp Arch was October; and that his CEO if the takeover goes through is expected to be Chris Farnell, the lawyer who made the now infamous phone call that sacked McDermott and who was ejected from Elland Road on Monday afternoon by David Haigh, Salem Patel and the security staff. Sheffield-based reporter Alan Biggs adds more information on the Wednesday link, although doesn’t provide a date for Cellino’s interest:

Massimo Cellino was keen on #swfc before #lufc , I understand. Went to home game & sat with Milan Mandaric.

— Alan Biggs (@AlanBiggs1) February 4, 2014

I spoke to Mandaric after Cellino appeared at #swfc game. He dismissed any takeover prospect. Cellino switched to #lufc.

— Alan Biggs (@AlanBiggs1) February 4, 2014

Interesting that price of Cellino buy out at #lufc similar to minimum valuation on #swfc at £25m. From what I hear, he was not encouraged.

— Alan Biggs (@AlanBiggs1) February 4, 2014

EARLIER: Tuesday had been expected to bring more developments, with the ‘super-consortium’ formed by Andrew Flowers and Mike Farnan heading to London to meet with club owners GFH. The consortium said yesterday that they will match Cellino’s offer, and that they want an immediate answer.

It’s not clear yet which other individuals are making up the combined consortium; Liverpool businessman Terry Riley revealed yesterday that he had been part of Sport Capital, with Flowers and David Haigh, but dropped out; former managing director of Manchester United International Mike Farnan has had Welcome to Yorkshire chair Gary Verity, director of Red Strike Marketing Frank Devoy, former Hull City chairman and Leeds director Adam Pearson, and Lucas Radebe – who needs no introduction – in his TogetherLeeds group.

Phil Hay wrote an update for the YEP around 10am: ‘The new consortium, which brings together members of two separate groups who have bid unsuccessfully to buy Leeds in the past, will ask GFH for an immediate agreement which negates their plan to sell a controlling interest to Cellino.’

More of Brian McDermott’s press conference was being made public just after midnight, as stories from Tuesday’s print editions come online, including Phil Hay revealing that Brian was faced with a flat tyre on the morning he returned to work, and a full transcript at the YEP.

It includes more stirring words in praise of United’s fans:

BM: We’ve got what hardly any club has got – a machine behind us. You’ve seen that reaction from our fans. They want what’s best for our football club. They believe passionately. They’re different. At a lot of clubs, not to many would have turned up on Saturday. But 31,000 turned up, screaming the roof down. At 1-0 down they were still getting behind the players. There’s a real siege mentality.

Q: What’s it like emotionally listening when they were chanting?

BM: That’s a tough question. You can’t walk away from that. You can’t walk away from that feeling. Can you imagine when we start winning every week what this place is going to be like? That’s my only vision. It’s my only vision for this club, when we start winning all the time with those fans behind us.

BM: They believe passionately in their football club. They deserve an awful lot. They’re proper people and I’ve said that from the day I arrived here. I’m from the south. These are proper people, absolutely. They know what they want and they know what’s right.

At the Telegraph, Henry Winter drew attention to McDermott’s strong words about the measures the Football League and Premier League need to put in place to prevent weekends like this from happening again, saying it should be a "watershed moment" for football. 

"I really think it could be and especially for this club, it needs to be,” he said. "We need to get this place right back on track. There has been some stuff at other clubs like what happened with Malky at Cardiff, and Portsmouth."

Stressing that he was speaking generally and not about the situation at Leeds, Brian said, "There is absolutely no doubt that the Football League have got to get that right because it’s a duty of care. That’s one of the most important decisions that the Football League will take. It is so important they do that right and they do their due diligence and the right people own football clubs.

"This is 2014 and I know a lot of the time in the last three weeks, I haven’t been talking about football. I’m managing other situations and other things. The manager really needs to be fresh to talk about football, to think about football, to talk about football players. If I’m absolutely honest that hasn’t been the case."

In a second article, Winter quoted McDermott’s confusion about the club’s new loan signing Andrea Tabanelli – who like McDermott, could find his career path reversed if his transfer proves not to have been ratified. "I think he’s from – where’s he from? – Cagliari? He turned up [to training on Monday]. But it’s not been ratified by the Football League yet. If he does, he will get the utmost respect because that’s the right and proper thing to do."

There was some dark humour at the very end of the session, when McDermott said that it was only when he returned to work that he knew he really did still have a job, and suggested that one reason the letter sacking him hasn’t arrived is because he couldn’t remember his own address:

Q: At what exact point were you reinstated in that timeline?

BM: I actually don’t know. You could probably say I was reinstated when the statement came out to say I was reinstated as Leeds manager. What time was that? Half four on the Saturday. Personally I still wasn’t sure. Then obviously we had a lot of stuff going on last night and I suppose just being back now and sitting here…this morning I reckon, about nine o’clock.

Q: How brief was the phone call on Friday night? Did you ask for any clarification about where this was coming from or why?

BM: No. All he said was that there was a letter on the way to my address. The secretary Ali (Royston) had asked what my address was. I didn’t know actually. I didn’t.

Q: What happened to the letter than?

BM: I don’t know.

Q: Lost in the post?

BM: I don’t know. I haven’t got it. It might be there when I get back.

Also speaking out is Massimo Cellino, in an article currently hidden behind The Sun’s paywall; written by Cellino’s journalist confidante Simon Austin, the headline is: Don’t you dare deal me out! United takeover warning. One Leeds fan has paid the quid required to read the interview:

Cellino is livid that talks could be about to start with another bidder and lays the blame at the door of managing director David Haigh.

— WhiteLeeds (@WhiteLeedsSite) February 4, 2014

Cellino says, "I’m in Miami so I don’t know exactly what’s going on now. But I know there was a deal. The only thing is David with this tricky behaviour. There is a lot of shit going on."

You can watch another interview with Simon Austin from early in the evening on Calendar here; Cellino has let it be known that as far as he is concerned, he is the owner of Leeds United, and he claims to receive a text from club chairman Salah Nooruddin on Friday afternoon congratulating him on buying the club. Simon Austin now (10am) says that text has been forwarded to him:

#cellino forwarded a text he says is from @salahnooruddin from 5pm last Friday. Reads "Congratulation. You are now the new owner of Leeds.."

— Simon Austin (@sport_simon) February 4, 2014

Cellino has also claimed to feel "an affinity with Leeds," despite changing his mind on the reasons why McDermott was sacked after being barricaded in the stadium by angry fans on Friday night; switching his story from ‘I did it’ to ‘They made me do it’; Simon Austin tweeted another comment from Cellino this afternoon:

Cellino:"I already love this club & want to do something right for it.I want to get it back where it belongs, in the Premier League." #lufc

— Simon Austin (@sport_simon) February 4, 2014

Despite the attempts at charm, Cellino has failed to win over the members of Leeds United Supporters’ Trust, who reported back on the messages they’ve been receiving from their membership this week. LUST’s members say the club’s image has been damaged by events of the last week, and, "Over 75% of members who have responded so far have indicated that, given the events of last week and the weekend, they do not feel that Mr Cellino would either understand LUFC supporters or be good for the club." They also expressed a desire for more information about the TogetherLeeds bid, and offered "massive support" and appreciation for Brian McDermott.

FourFourTwo report comments from LUST chairman Gary Cooper, asking whoever takes charge of the club to think carefully about McDermott’s future. "Consider the implications, not just of Brian and the team, but in the response from the supporters. This is Leeds United. It’s not Cellino United. It’s not GFH United. It’s not Together Leeds United. This is Leeds United. We, the supporters, are what makes this club great. Respect that and work with us. Don’t challenge and work against us."

The main obstacle in front of Cellino’s takeover remains passing the Football League Owners and Directors test; David Conn has written in The Guardian that there’s not much in the regulations that would prevent Cellino’s approval. Despite rumours early on Tuesday that Cellino had passed, Adam Pope checked with the Football League:

#lufc @football_league say situation re Massimo Cellino passing the owners & directors test remains as per their statement on Saturday. 1/2

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 4, 2014

#lufc FL statement ended: "We will seek to deal with the change of ownership application as soon as the required information is provided."

— Adam Pope (@APOPEY) February 4, 2014

Phil Hay wrote late this morning that Cellino’s representatives have made their case to the Football League, arguing that his two fraud convictions are ‘spent’ under the rules and no longer applicable, and that he is innocent until proven guilty with regard to his forthcoming trial for embezzlement.

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