New Leeds owners very excited
Leeds' new directors promised to mend the club's broken relationship with its fans and launch a sustained challenge for Barclays Premier League glory when their 100% takeover was formally announced today at Elland Road.
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Dubai-based investment bank GFH Capital, who confirmed they have bought a 100% stake in Leeds City Holdings, the company that owns the football club, finalised the deal late last night to end a protracted seven-month period of uncertainty and with it, previous owner Ken Bates' eight-year spell in charge.
Bates, who took control in January 2005, was praised by the new owners, understood to have paid £52million for the club, for turning Leeds into a profit-making business after its near-collapse following relegation from the Premier League in 2004.
But the 81-year-old courted some controversy with his own fans, at one point calling a faction of them "morons" as the number of dissenting voices about a perceived lack of investment grew.
Bates will remain as chairman during a transitional period until the end of the season when he will take up the role of honorary president of the football club.
Above him, GFH Capital deputy chief executive David Haigh, who became a Leeds director two weeks ago, has been joined on the club's board by GFH Capital board director Salem Patel and GFH Capital managing director Hisham Alrayes.
Haigh, a lifelong Leeds fan, said: "It's not just always about money, it's about re-engaging the community, re-engaging the fans.
"Small steps, as well investment can make such a big difference and that's one of the things that attracted us to Leeds United, the fanbase is fantastic, not just in Leeds, but around the world in Norway, Bahrain and Dubai, there's supporters' groups everywhere and that's what makes it special."
Leeds fans had grown increasingly sceptical about the new owners since it was first confirmed the two parties had started talks 206 days ago in May due to strict confidentiality agreements.
But Haigh said: "As far as concerns go, we've bought this club with cash. There's no debt. We're looking forward to the future. We've interacted with fans already for a number of months and today set up an official Twitter account to continue interacting with fans.
"We're very open to people raising their concerns and issues with us. We've had 4,500 messages of support over the last month and there are more coming in today.
"We are a Dubai-based, regulated bank, owned by a Bahrain-based regulated bank that's listed on four stock exchanges, including London, so when it comes to transparency as to where the money has come from, who our investors are, our shareholders and directors, it's very clear and it's incredibly transparent."
Patel was clearly inspired by the atmosphere at Elland Road in midweek despite the club's 5-1 Capital One Cup defeat to Chelsea.
He said: "Leeds United is a great football club. It's got history, it's got pedigree, it's got a fantastic base on which we can build the club up. We looked at a number of clubs, but for us Leeds United was the most attractive for the reasons outlined.
"What we hope to achieve is to bring back the type of atmosphere that we all witnessed on Wednesday, although the result wasn't great the crowd was absolutely fantastic and that's what we really want to recreate, a sustainable and successful future.
"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 kind of commitment.
"But what we want to say is, we're not going to be spending crazy money like some football clubs have, but what we want to do is make the investment sustainable and make the club successful, it's as simple as that."
Leeds United Supporters Trust, highly critical of the previous regime and what they considered to be an inability to invest in the team, offered the club's new owners a hearty welcome.
Trust chairman Gary Cooper told Press Association Sport: "We are absolutely delighted with what they have had to say. Supporters are fundamental to the club's income streams.
"The club needs its fans behind it, putting their hands in their pockets and buying tickets, merchandise, food and drink. You cannot run a successful club if you alienate the fans."
The new owners revealed it was a term of their contract that Neil Warnock remained as manager, but were unable to disclose how much money would be made available to him in the January transfer window.