Sun, Nov 14, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Leeds United out to sell it stadium

ENGLISH PERMIER LEAGUEAs soon as a takover bid fell through, Leeds chairman Gerald Krasner said that Elland Road facility was being sold to pay off its debts

AP , LEEDS, ENGLANDAP, MANCHESTER, ENGLAND

A proposed £25-million (US$46 million) takeover of Leeds United by a British-American consortium collapsed Friday, and the club announced it would sell its Elland Road ground.

The consortium later issued a statement saying it has been granted a seven-day extension to buy the club, but Leeds chairman Gerald Krasner denied it.

"Nothing has changed," he said. "Why they think they have an extension is simply beyond me. It is merely giving the fans more confusion which is something we are trying to stop."

The consortium was headed by Sebastian Sainsbury, the great-grandson of the founder of the British supermarket chain Sainsbury's. The American partners were Michael Lucas and Burl Sheppard of Pennsylvania-based Nova Financial Holdings, Inc.

Krasner said the deal broke down because funds had not arrived by the end of banking hours on Thursday.

"This transaction has not taken place," Krasner said. "On that basis the Leeds United board has been advised through their solicitors that negotiations [with Nova] have now ceased."

As soon as the deal fell through, Krasner said Leeds' Elland Road stadium was being sold with the money going to pay off debts at the financially strapped club.

Krasner said the club would lease the stadium from its new owner and the team would stay at Elland Road for the foreseeable future. The chairman also said "advanced discussions" were being held with a local consortium to take over the club.

After Leeds' initial statement that the deal had fallen through, the Sainsbury-Nova consortium issued a statement saying it had been given a week's extension to come up with the money.

"We will continue to move towards completing on this deal in the very near future," the statement said. "We remain incredibly excited about this opportunity. ... Leeds United Football Club will hear from us with a view to completing this deal upon on our having achieved monies into our lawyer's bank account."

Krasner said there would be no extension.

"They have been given six opportunities. Each time they have failed to do any of this. I'm sorry, time's run out," Krasner said.

Krasner was behind the £30-million (US$54 million) takeover that saved Leeds from bankruptcy in March.

American businessman Malcolm Glazer used his 28.11 percent ownership of Manchester United to oust three board members at the club's annual general meeting on Friday.

The vote by a representative of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner could signal his intentions to attempt a hostile takeover of Manchester United PLC, ranked by many as the world's richest sports franchise.

The removal of board members Maurice Watkins, Andy Anson and Philip Yea came as blow to chief executive David Gill, who recommended the three for re-election.

"Manchester United supporters will take this as a declaration of war," said Sean Bones, vice chairman of the fan-based group Shareholders United.

"It's a huge miscalculation by Malcolm Glazer. It does put Man United in an unstable position and it will be a rallying call for all Man United supporters."

In a statement, Manchester United said the vote by the Malcolm I. Glazer Family LP was the deciding factor in the rejection of the three board members.

"Had the Glazer Family abstained or voted in favor of these resolutions, they would all have been passed," the statement said. "The board are very disappointed with this outcome as we do not believe it is in the best interests of the company."

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