Abrasive Bates leaves Leeds fans in the dark

As Ken Bates took his public bow as the new chairman and co-owner of Leeds United yesterday, he invoked Cilla Black's famous catchphrase to tell the ailing club's fans: "We're gonna have a lorra lorra laughs." On the evidence of a combative, tetchy and thoroughly unenlightening press conference, his reign threatens to be about as amusing as a punch in the face.

As Ken Bates took his public bow as the new chairman and co-owner of Leeds United yesterday, he invoked Cilla Black's famous catchphrase to tell the ailing club's fans: "We're gonna have a lorra lorra laughs." On the evidence of a combative, tetchy and thoroughly unenlightening press conference, his reign threatens to be about as amusing as a punch in the face.

"Get out, I don't want you flashing in my face," he barked at photographers. Flapping open his jacket in mock "dirty old man" fashion, he added that he was the only person who could flash around here. "If you carry on, I'll walk out," he said to one questioner, who had the temerity to query the logic behind his investment in Leeds.

"It's simple really, I just won't deal with you," he told the gathered press, explaining what would happen to any detractors considering coverage of him or Leeds that he deems unfairly negative. And that, in short, was the tone of the afternoon. Less than a year after the 73-year-old former Chelsea owner departed Stamford Bridge, having sold a financially-crippled business to saviour Roman Abramovich, he was back in the football business, and as abrasive and evasive as ever.

Bates, who bought 50 per cent of Leeds last week for an undisclosed sum believed to be £10m at most, refused to disclose who now owns the other half. He said his refusal was for financially sensitive reasons.

Such a stance comes as no surprise. The ownership structure of Chelsea was similarly never declared. Indeed, an inquiry by the City's financial regulatory body is still ongoing to ascertain who exactly owned Chelsea in the run-up to the sale to Abramovich.

Bates also refused to give any information whatsoever about his financial input at Elland Road. It has been assumed he paid around £10m for half the club but it might have been less.

Bates did admit that he was still on the lookout for investors, but provided no figures on his own input, or about funds available for players, if any. "We intend giving no commercial information to our competitors," he said. With Leeds now a private company, there is no requirement for financial transparency. If a plan due to be outlined last night at a Fans' Forum is any indication, it seems supporters will be asked to provide money to safeguard the club's future.

Bates is proposing a scheme whereby they buy the pitch at Elland Road, and even the rights to the club's name, and then lease them back to the club for peppercorn rent in 199-year deals. Quite how this will work in practice is not known. Bates declined to tell the press. A similar scheme in his early days at Chelsea was not a success.

On the subject of sales and lease-backs, Bates reaffirmed his intention to buy back Elland Road and the Thorp Arch training complex "in the fullness of time". Both properties were recently sold for around £13m combined to alleviate debt and it is understood there is a fixed buy-back price of £17.7m.

In the meantime, Leeds will pay more than £1m a year rent for their ground. Arguably the most surprising claim of the day was Bates's assertion that Leeds' debts had been "to an extent overstated". He said the debts, which stood at more than £100m a year ago, were now £17m. Of that, he said £4.4m was owed to the outgoing board, and another £3.5m was scheduled to be paid in manageable stages to the tax authorities.

"There is not a great deal of debt," Bates said. Naturally he would not discuss outstanding liabilities, if any, to the bondholders who lent Leeds £60m during the Peter Ridsdale era.

As recently as September, Leeds' books showed that tens of millions could still be due if Leeds return to the Premiership, with an instant £5m due on promotion for starters.

One item that was allowed on the agenda yesterday was manager Kevin Blackwell's future. Bates denied he had considered hiring Dennis Wise and said Blackwell had his "unqualified support", and even his phone numbers. Blackwell will not be forced to sell players, Bates said. Not surprisingly, he gave no details about who might come in, or when.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee