Dubai’s GFH Capital complete Leeds United takeover
After six months of negotiations, Dubai-based investment bank GFH Capital will now complete the takeover of Championship club Leeds United.
It is a deal that many Leeds fans thought would never happen, with increasing doubts about the financial viability of the investors surfacing throughout the protracted negotiations, but Ken Bates confirmed in a radio interview on Wednesday morning that he had agreed to sell his majority stake in the club to the bank – bringing an end to his controversial eight-year reign at Elland Road.
In the interim, GFH Capital have provided additional funds to the club in order to finance required team strengthening in time for the closure of the emergency loan window.
GFH Capital, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House, signed an exclusivity agreement with Bates earlier in the summer, putting them in pole position to complete the takeover. Despite the emergence of US investor Preston Haskell and rumours of interest from Saudi Arabia, that exclusivity window was extended, with the club confirming that GFH Capital had already lent the club £2 million to ease cash troubles.
It is expected that deputy-CEO David Haigh will join the board and eventually replace Ken Bates as chairman, who has confirmed that he will continue in the role until the end of the season, at which point he will become President.
"I will continue as chairman until the end of the season when I will take over as president and I look forward to sitting back and taking more time off,” he said in a statement on the official club website. “Neil Warnock will continue as manager with more support than the present owners have been able to give and we look forward to a smooth transition.
"One thing I can say that has benefited from the negotiations is that this six-month courtship has given GFH Capital the opportunity to see the strengths and weaknesses and what needs to be supported. You can look forward to a smoother transition than we've seen at a lot of clubs.”
For his part, Haigh talked of his pride at being involved with the three-time English league champions. "After a long process of negotiations, spanning Leeds, London, Monaco, Dubai and Bahrain, it gives us great pride today, to have completed the deal for Leeds United," he said.
"We look to the future and start the exciting journey to take Leeds United FC back into a prime position in English football once again.
"From a Leeds family myself and a supporter of The Whites since childhood, I know that football is at the very heart of the people of Leeds and the wider community... Let's now march on together, taking the club back to the Premier League as soon as possible."
David Haigh also reserved his 1,000th Tweet to reveal the news: "Time to pick up keys to Elland Road with @salempatel... We're so excited about future of #LUFC & want to thank the fans for your patience."
GFH Capital board member Salem Patel, who has been at the forefront of the deal, Tweeted his delight at the acquisition. He Tweeted within moments of the statement: "Absolute honour to be involved with this great club and a real blessing to give so many people so much joy today."
The final date for the takeover is December 21st. The timing is important as it means the new board can help manager Neil Warnock finance a rebuilding programme during the January transfer window; depsite an encouraging start to the current campaign, the club languish in 18th position after three straight league defeats.
GFH board member Hisham al-Rayes had already gone on the record to say that GFH Capital have additional funds in place to help Warnock bring in new player. "We have a budget in place in addition to the purchase figure to buy better players to achieve promotion to the Premier League,” he said.
More to follow…