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Sep 27, 2012

Middle Eastern bank fronts new Leeds bid

A Middle Eastern bank has signed an exclusive agreement to lead a takeover of Championship club Leeds United, with the news coming shortly after current chairman Ken Bates had revealed he was in talks about a sale.

Gulf Finance House (GFH) confirmed that it had signed an agreement days after Bates had hosted a group of four businessmen at the home game against Nottingham Forest. He had earlier said that he was holding discussions with a group from the Middle East.

In a letter released to the Bahrain Stock Exchange, GFH said its subsidiary company GFH Capital was operating on behalf of the potential purchasers.

"Further to the news published in the Gulf Daily News on September 25 and 26 2012 referring to the proposed acquisition of Leeds United Football Club, GFH would like to confirm that GFH Capital Limited, a 100% subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, has signed an exclusive agreement to lead and arrange the acquisition of Leeds City Holdings, the parent company of LUFC," the letter said.

"Due to a confidentially provision, no further details can be given about the commercial terms of the transaction."

David Haigh, the deputy chief executive officer and chief operating officer of GFH Capital, is a Leeds supporter and is believed to be fronting the takeover attempt.

He was unavailable for comment, and there was also no comment from Leeds.

Bates has been in charge at Elland Road for seven years, but supporter unrest at his stewardship of the club has been growing and protests and boycotts have taken place.

The former Chelsea chairman has been widely criticised for what is seen as a lack of investment in the club and some fans accuse him of offering insufficient transfer market backing to manager Neil Warnock.

News of Thursday's developments has been welcomed by the Leeds United Supporters Trust, which has long campaigned for change at Elland Road.

The Trust's chairman, Gary Cooper, said it was "great news" and added: "The Trust has been calling for the potential buyer and the club to say something, and this is what we've all been waiting to hear."

He said it had been a "long, long summer" for Leeds supporters as they waited to hear something concrete about the situation

"It's been frustrating," he explained. "So we're really pleased GFH have finally come out and said something. It appears now that this deal is close to being completed.

"We always understood that this was going to be a takeover, and we all hope now that the new owners share our ambitions for the club."

In August, the Leeds United Supporters Trust said a proposed takeover of the club had fallen through. Two months earlier, Leeds said a group of investors - unnamed, but believed to be from the Middle East - had been granted due diligence, and it had been widely expected that a deal would be concluded soon afterwards.

The Yorkshire Post said the Bahrain media had claimed a group of investors, headed by Leeds supporter Mubarak Al-Khalifa, had believed they were close to completing a deal for the club.

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