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leeds united latest: hump day

leeds united latest: hump day

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As has been the case all week, the last hours of Tuesday night brought developments you might not have seen if you went to bed at a reasonable hour like a healthy person.

  • Ross McCormack has put the players views forward in a newspaper interview
  • “I speak to a lot of people throughout the city and they feel as if the club is a bit of a laughing stock at the minute”
  • “It’s imperative we get the ownership of the club sorted straightaway. Then we, as players and management staff, can move forward and get the club over the line and back into the big-time”
  • Statement from Mike Farnan’s TogetherLeeds consortium arrived at 10.30pm; full text is below
  • “In the best interests of Leeds United, our offer of constructive dialogue will remain open”
  • “…this is a bid backed by credible Leeds, Yorkshire and footballing people that offers [GFH] an acceptable solution and the club and its supporters a dynamic future”
  • “The commitment and determination shown by Andrew Flowers has made us more determined not to walk away”
  • Andrew Flowers released a statement at 5.30pm announcing he is withdrawing from the race; full text is below
  • Says GFH and LUFC are selling the club, “with no consideration for its ultimate security and wellbeing”
  • “It is a ‘fire sale’ transaction which is not in the interests of Leeds United, its players, staff or loyal supporters
  • More talks between Flowers, Farnan and GFH had been planned for this morning
  • Phil Hay reported earlier that Flowers consortium won’t match Cellino offer
  • Flowers issued a winding up petition last week over alleged unpaid debt
  • Winding up petition to be heard at the High Court on March 17th (although 17 is Cellino’s unlucky number)
  • GFH Capital responded to the petition with two versions of an angry statement on Leeds United website late on Tuesday night
  • Massimo Cellino loaned the club £1.5m last week, but has not paid for shares
  • Cellino looked at Sheffield Wednesday before Leeds; first visited Thorp Arch around October

UPDATE 11.15pm: Club captain Ross McCormack has told The Daily Mail, “It’s imperative we get the ownership of the club sorted straightaway. Then we, as players and management staff, can move forward and get the club over the line and back into the big-time.”

He says he can sense the effect the last week has had on the club’s status. “I speak to a lot of people throughout the city and they feel as if the club is a bit of a laughing stock at the minute.”

Ross also said that before the Huddersfield game the players had decided to “‘…go out and finish this disaster of a week on a positive note’, and thankfully we showed the character to do that.”

He isn’t sure who rejected the offers for him on transfer deadline day, but is “led to believe it was the Italians,” and says that, “I’ve got three-and-a-half years left on my contract and I believe that within that time we can get this club back in the Premier League.

“If I’d wanted to, I could probably have tried to force through a move on Friday night but that was never in my thoughts. I love being at this club, especially being captain I’m very privileged.”

UPDATE 10.30pm: Mike Farnan’s Together Leeds consortium have released a statement of their own. Much milder in tone and content than Andrew Flowers’ statement from earlier in the evening, it talks about the group’s ability to “deliver a vision that has at its heart the club we all cherish.” It leaves the way open for further “constructive dialogue” with GFH, stating that its bid would provide the investment bank with “an acceptable solution” and the clubs’ fans with “a dynamic future”:

We have watched the events of the last week with considerable interest. We remain committed to delivering a fully-funded, sustainable, long-term plan, to rebuild Leeds United FC and restore it to its rightful place in English football.

We have assembled a team of highly regarded individuals and advisors who have substantial reputations in football and are ready to move quickly to resolve all outstanding issues.

We have reached out to GFH with every intention of demonstrating that this is a bid backed by credible Leeds, Yorkshire and footballing people that offers them an acceptable solution and the club and its supporters a dynamic future.

The commitment and determination shown by Andrew Flowers has made us more determined not to walk away.

Together our group can and will deliver a vision that has at its heart the club we all cherish. In the best interests of Leeds United, our offer of constructive dialogue will remain open.

We now await GFH’s response and will look forward to finding a constructive, embracing solution to ensure that the distractions of this prolonged uncertainty can be put behind the club and the focus return to football.

Mike Farnan tweeted later about the difficulties his group are facing with GFH:

@AndrewHaigh We have asked GFH repeatedly for a meeting to show them our Proof of Funds. We cannot prove funds unless they talk to us #fact

— Mike Farnan (@FarnanM) February 5, 2014

@TheSquareBall I am trying to be transparent as I can. Our funders do not want to be named until we have constructive dialogue with GFH

— Mike Farnan (@FarnanM) February 5, 2014

UPDATE 6.15pm: Andrew Flowers has pulled out of the bidding for Leeds United.

After a day in which Flowers was believed to still be negotiating with GFH, he released a statement to Phil Hay at the YEP this evening. The statement reads:

I entered discussions in good faith to buy this club for the simple reason that I am a lifelong supporter and sincerely believed that I could make a real contribution towards the goal of promotion to the Premier League and at the same time provide the stability and sound financial governance the club desperately needs.

However, the emergence of Mr Cellino’s bid, and the nature of the transaction, seems to have crystallised the attitudes of both GFH and the Leeds United board, enabling them to dispose of the club with no consideration for its ultimate security and wellbeing.

In effect, it is a ‘fire sale’ transaction which is not in the interests of Leeds United, its players, staff or loyal supporters.

Both myself and my company, Enterprise Insurance, have been enormous financial supporters of the club for the last few years and while we may understand the commercial expediency which leads the owners to accept the superficially attractive Cellino offer, we remain firmly convinced this deal will not give the club the stability or investor commitment it badly needs.

Despite our serious misgivings, we wish the team, the manager and fans well for the future and I remain a very enthusiastic Leeds supporter.

I have no other comment to make at this time about outstanding financial and legal issues between us and the current owners.

Andrew Flowers had formed a joint consortium with Mike Farnan to counteract the bid from Massimo Cellino; it’s not clear what effect Flowers’ statement has on Farnan’s interest.

EARLIER: The Guardian posted a story just before midnight that says Andrew Flowers, who was trying on Tuesday to negotiate a way of buying Leeds United from current owners GFH ahead of Massimo Cellino, will be holding a press conference in London on Wednesday, “to set out further details of his continued bid, now understood to be in alliance with other, previously rival, consortium members.”

UPDATE 12pm: Phil Hay reports on Twitter that the Flowers consortium are dropping out of the running, as the consortium as it stands won’t match what Cellino has agreed to pay. Phil’s second tweet suggests at least some in the Sport Capital/Together Leeds group still think they can find the funding.

A further comment from The Guardian says a press conference from Flowers today looks unlikely.

Getting the distinct impression that Flowers is out. Unconfirmed but I understand the group as it was yesterday won’t pay what MC is paying

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 5, 2014

Some suggestion that others between Sport Capital/Together Leeds are trying to push a bid on but Cellino looks like he’s in the box seat.

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 5, 2014

@PhilHayYEP No presser today in London I’m told. As had been suggested…

— James Riach (@James_Riach) February 5, 2014

There was no word this morning on how negotiations had gone, other than that according to Phil Hay of the YEP, talks continued past 8pm:

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

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 4, 2014

On Wednesday morning, Phil tweeted that more talks are planned for today:

As ludicrous as this sounds, just been told that more talks between GFH, Flowers/Farnan etc are planned for this morning.

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 5, 2014

Honestly can’t gauge where these talks are going, if anywhere. Cellino still thinks he’s buying the club.

— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) February 5, 2014

Around 10.30pm on Tuesday night a statement was posted by GFH Capital on Leeds United’s website in response to the news earlier that Flowers has filed a winding up petition against the club over an alleged unpaid debt. The petition was filed last Wednesday January 29th, at the same time as the Sport Capital bid broke down, and had been mentioned in reports over the weekend, before the Financial Times confirmed its existence, presumably once documents became public, at teatime on Tuesday.

After it was posted, the wording of the statement was changed and the originally posted version – still being used on various news websites – was replaced by 11.30pm. The original statement read:

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.

Soon, the middle paragraph above – beginning ‘As there were no valid grounds…’ and ending with ‘…take-over negotiations’ was removed.

(There was also another version posted on Twitter, and while I somehow don’t think that came from the club, it’s worth a look as an indication of the gallows humour a lot of Leeds fans are resorting to by now.)

The strongly worded statement from GFH Capital describes the winding up petition as “an abuse of legal process” that seeks 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.”

Flowers is known to have loaned the club £1.5m in October 2012, at interest of 7% and due to be repaid in 2015. Flowers is also believed to have put money into the club to cover running costs in recent months, and his company Enterprise Insurance were reported to have paid their club sponsorship fees in advance in August so the club could afford a new contract for Ross McCormack.

Further confusing the financial situation, Massimo Cellino also loaned £1.5m to United last week, which Phil Hay reports “is unrelated to the structured payments due from Cellino for a 75 per cent stake in the club. While the owner of Cagliari has ploughed cash directly into United, he is not thought to have paid any money for shares to Leeds owner Gulf Finance House despite the two sides agreeing the terms of a buy-out on Friday afternoon.”

Salem Patel said on Monday that, “Like with most other football clubs, the club runs at a loss,” and that loss is believed to have been around £1m a month since GFH Capital bought the club, adding that, “Any financial owner, like ourselves, I don’t believe will continue to underwrite losses over the medium to long term.”

More details have emerged of Cellino’s path to Leeds via Phil Hay and Sheffield-based reporter Alan Biggs; he went first to Sheffield Wednesday in September, and took in a game with Milan Mandaric; he was first shown around Thorp Arch in October, by then acting CEO Paul Hunt (who seems to be staying sacked), after a call to Hunt put him on the radar of GFH.

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