Wednesday 24 January 2018

Cellino agrees to 50pc sale of Leeds

Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino. Photo: Clint Hughes/Getty
Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino. Photo: Clint Hughes/Getty

Ian Herbert

Leeds United's ignominious two-year era under the chaotic ownership of Massimo Cellino appears to be reaching an end, with the sale of a 50 per cent of the club to another Italian, though promotion to the Premier League at the end of this season could ironically dash supporters' hopes that he will sell out entirely and walk away.

The sale to Andrea Radrizzani, an Italian TV rights mogul, came after Cellino was hit with an 18-month suspension from the game by the English Football Association and it is understood that the governing body are also ready to impose further sanctions against the former majority owner for the way he sexually discriminated against and dismissed the club's respected former head of education, Lucy Ward.

But though the FA's ruling that Cellino paid a £185,000 bung to an unlicensed adviser representing striker Ross McCormack has pushed the Italian towards a substantial disposal of the club he said he would never sell, the allure of Premier League football may be too much to see him walk away.

With Garry Monk's side currently fifth in the table and seven points off the automatic promotion places, it is understood Cellino may be prepared to sit out his ban, which will run until the summer of 2018, if it means the chance to reap the financial whirlwind of promotion.

Monk, who became the seventh manager in less than three years of Cellino's stewardship when he was appointed last June, has secured greater stability than his predecessors by surrounding himself with a greater number of football professionals and refusing to tolerate the Cellino sycophants, who effectively became spies for him at the Thorp Arch training ground. It remains to be seen whether the 37-year-old can convert that independence into promotion.

Radrizzani is optimistic that he will be able to take control of the club, though he will for now work under the title of co-owner, having acquired half of United's shares through his company Aser Group Holding.

He was one of the founders of the global media rights firm MP & Silva and developed it into a company of more than £500m worth. Discussions of a Leeds takeover with Cellino began last May and seemed to have been successful until the deal hit the rocks last October. The renewal of discussions before Christmas coincided with the FA ban, which Cellino is currently appealing.

The 'Time To Go Massimo' campaign group welcomed the news of Radrizzani's purchase and said it believed that Premier League promotion would not necessarily be an impediment to a sale. Instead, promotion to the top flight could possibly mean Cellino is simply paid a larger sum for the remaining 50 per cent of his shares. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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