Bahrain Bank Reaches Agreement on Takeover of Leeds Soccer Club

Three-time English soccer champion Leeds United moved closer to being sold after Bahrain-based bank Gulf Finance House EC said one of its units has signed an accord to lead a takeover.

GFH Capital Ltd. has an agreement to lead and arrange the acquisition of Leeds City Holdings, the parent company of the team, according to a filing made with the Bahrain bourse.

Leeds attempted to challenge Manchester United and Arsenal for England’s Premier League title in the early 2000s with a spending spree for top talent. The team’s failure to match its expenditure with success led it to fall into financial difficulties and in 2004 it was demoted from the top flight. After a spell in the third division and entering bankruptcy protection, Leeds now plays in the Championship, one level below the Premier League.

“It is expected that from next season each team in the Premier League will receive a minimum of 60 million pounds ($97 million) per season due to the increase in broadcasting rights,” the bank said in its statement. “LUFC would also benefit from this if it can achieve promotion.”

GFH declined to provide further details, citing a confidentiality clause. Leeds chairman Ken Bates, who once owned Chelsea, five days ago said the team was in advanced negotiations about potential investment.

Finer Points

“There’s a number of finer points to be resolved but we’re making good progress,” Bates said in a statement in the club program, describing the investors as a publically traded bank with interests across the Gulf, Asia, and Africa. “We had four of the top people over here for a big meeting on Friday and they are at our game on Saturday.”

Leeds spokesman Paul Dews didn’t respond to a message seeking comment. GFH declined to comment on whether it’s buying the club or acting for a third party.

GFH has also suffered from financial difficulties in recent times. In May the investment bank, which specializes in Islamic finance, obtained permission from creditors to restructure a $110 million debt. The Press Association reported David Haigh, a Leeds fan who is the deputy chief executive officer and chief operating officer of GFH Capital, may be leading the bid.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in London at tpanja@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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