Dubai-based bank GFH Capital have finally completed their takeover of Championship outfit Leeds United.
GFH – who are owned by a Bahrain-based, regulated bank – paid a reported fee of 52 million pounds for a 100 percent stake in Leeds, widely regarded as the biggest sleeping giant in English football.
The confirmation of the buyout ends Ken Bates’ disastrous reign in charge at Elland Road, in which United were relegated twice, entered administration twice, were docked a total of 25 points for financial reasons and consistently sold their best players without replacing them.
Leeds fans have regularly protested against Bates in recent years and although he will remain as joint-chairman – with GFH Capital’s David Haigh – until the end of the season, his day-to-day involvement is not likely to continue beyond the end of the current campaign.
Bates will fill the role of club president going forward but Haigh said his involvement would be minimal, while current Leeds director Shaun Harvey said the controversial former Chelsea chairman did not attend Friday’s press conference at Elland Road because they ‘wanted the focus on the future and GFH rather than anything else’.
Harvey was flanked by Haigh and his GFH colleague, Salem Patel, who are now directors at the club, at the announcement.
Patel was delighted to announce GFH’s acquisition of the Yorkshire club but said they would not be spending ‘crazy money’ to bolster the team’s squad in a bid to return to the English Premier League.
“Leeds United is a great football club with a great history, pedigree and a fantastic base from which we can build the club,” Patel said.
“We looked at a number of clubs but Leeds was the most attractive for those reasons. We hope to bring back the type of atmosphere we witnessed on Wednesday (in the Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea) where, although the result wasn’t fantastic, the atmosphere and crowd – it was absolutely fantastic on the night.
“Obviously it’s going to take investment and we wouldn’t have bought a club like this if we weren’t prepared to make that investment.
“What we want to say is that we’re not going to be spending crazy money like some owners have. We want to make the investment sustainable and make the club successful. Simple as that.”
Despite a warning that they would not be spending like Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, Patel says United manager Neil Warnock will be backed in the January transfer window.
“January is not a great time to do business,” he said.
“Thankfully we already have a good squad and we have a few players coming back from injury. Neil has already publicly stated what he wants and we are going to do our best to help him achieve that.”
Warnock has previously expressed a desire to sign loan players Jerome Thomas and Alan Tate, on loan from West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City respectively, permanently.
A striker is also likely to be a priority.
Haigh – a lifelong Leeds fan – allayed fears about GFH potentially loaning money to buy the club, while he also spoke of the transparency the club’s new ownership structure has.
“We’ve bought this club with cash, there is no debt,” Haigh said.
“We are a Dubai-based regulated bank, owned by a Bahrain-based regulated bank that is listed on four stock exchanges including London.
“So when it comes to transparency as to where the money is coming from, who are our shareholders and investors, it is very clear.”
Haigh also said that re-engaging the disillusioned fans at Leeds – crowds have dropped alarmingly in Bates’ reign at the club – was a priority of his.
United currently sit 12th on the Championship table, five points away from the playoffs.
Leeds – who have been champions of England on three occasions and were semi-finalists in the 2001 UEFA Champions League – last played in the top flight in the 2003-04 season.