Sainsbury expects Leeds deal this week

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Sainsbury insisted yesterday that he remained on course to become Leeds United's chairman by Friday, saying that legal smallprint was the only thing stalling his consortium's £25m takeover.

Sebastian Sainsbury insisted yesterday that he remained on course to become Leeds United's chairman by Friday, saying that legal smallprint was the only thing stalling his consortium's £25m takeover.

His optimism was echoed by Michael Lucas, the president of the US-based Nova Financial Partners, the consortium's investment vehicle that Sainsbury said last week had been "put together for this enterprise".

"I don't think it's a matter of if but when," said Lucas, 63, who added that Nova's members would be bankrolling the Leeds buyout with "substantial oil and gas assets".

Lucas added that four technology companies represented in the consortium held a successful meeting in Tampa, Florida, last Friday, to discuss their plans.

He said that the rationale behind buying Leeds was to use the club as a "platform" to sell technology products and services, including wireless broadband access. He also envisages offering footage of Leeds matches to fans via hand-held viewing devices.

"I've examined the financials, and it [the club] is cut out to make money," he said. "Considering the massive fan base, profits should not be a problem at all."

Another member of the Nova group, Burl Sheppard, has a background in the technology industry, and Lucas said yesterday that Sheppard's knowledge of 'Espre' technology - a type of wireless communication tool - would be useful. Sheppard, who is resident in Tampa, has been involved in several companies, including telecoms firms, that are now defunct.

Neither Sainsbury nor Sheppard have any history of involvement in football, but Lucas has claimed close ties to the game.

He claimed yesterday that he had earned three international caps as a goalkeeper for the US in the early 1960s, including one game against Pele's Brazil, although he could not remember the precise year or venue.

"It was great to be on the same field as the guy," he said. "They killed us 4-1." Curiously, the official historian of the US Soccer Federation said yesterday that there was no record of a Mike Lucas or Michael Lucas ever playing for America. The record books show that Brazil and America did not meet in any international match between 1930 and 1992.

Sainsbury said yesterday: "We have confirmed to the board that the money is sitting in a bank ready to do the deal."

Leeds' chairman, Gerald Krasner, said: "To date, our lawyers have not had any proof of funds from Nova Financial Partners, but if and when any negotiations come to a concrete conclusion, a further statement will be made."

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