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Monday 26 September 2016

'It's not a gimmick' - Actor Russell Crowe asked to make good on his offer to Leeds United

Wayne Gardiner

Published 03/11/2015 | 21:00

Russell Crowe
Russell Crowe

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe has been told that now is the time to make good of his previous interest in owning a stake in Leeds.

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Crowe - best known for his portrayal of Maximus in Gladiator - is a lifelong Leeds fan and earlier this year explored the possibility of purchasing the club.

He opted against it in August and told the club's fans to get behind Leeds Fans Utd - a supporter-funded group which on Friday was told it could purchase current owner Massimo Cellino's majority stake in the club.

LFU will on Wednesday meet with Cellino's lawyers in a bid to gain an exclusivity period, during which it would go through the due diligence process.

It continues to take donations from fans too - England's World Cup-winning centre Mike Tindall on Tuesday became the latest high-profile supporter - and Crowe has been told to get on board with his boyhood club.

"Russell had said that he would like to do this as a project if he could but he was not prepared to leave his family for that length of time and I don't think that has necessarily changed," LFU chief executive Dylan Thwaites told Press Association Sport.

"But the idea of a high net-worth Leeds fan... he absolutely falls into the category and we would value that investment from him."

Crowe has spoken passionately about his "love" for Leeds and his support dates back to the 1970s, and as such LFU are treating him as a serious potential investor and not just a gimmick.

Crowe currently owns Australian rugby league side South Sydney who are themselves a fan-run club.

"It's not a gimmick, not at all, and we would value his input; not least because what he did at South Sydney was amazing," Thwaites added.

"We have had great support too from members of the Kaiser Chiefs and we are very comfortable with people investing in public or privately. If Russell wants to invest, we can cater for him."

Thwaites' hopes his meeting with Cellino's legal team will provide him with the exclusivity he needs to work on a deal, with the Italian having told him he will sell to LFU at cost.

That means a minimum starting price of £30million given the 59-year-old's investment in the club since buying it from Gulf Finance House in April 2014.

"Massimo Cellino has said he will sell to us at cost, the money he's put in and that is a specific amount we can find out during due diligence," Thwaites said

"We know it's at £30m in new equity from Companies House, so it's at least £30m.

"Tomorrow we need exclusivity. We are ready to go, have our team to do due diligence. The position is that verbally he's given us exclusivity by selling to us."

LFU believes it can source the funds necessary from up to 12 "high net-worth" supporters via interest free loans and think that it could be in a position to complete a deal within three months of exclusivity being granted.

Thwaites also described as "rubbish" the suggestion that LFU would not be able to fund the club beyond an initial purchase.

Cellino's decision to sell comes on the back of continued fan unrest about his reign, which has seen him banned twice by the Football League and the coming and going of six managers.

He faces three further criminal cases in his native Italy.

Press Association

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