Bates in £10m bid to lead takeover at Leeds

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The Independent Online

Ken Bates, the irascible, outspoken former Chelsea chairman, wants to make one final foray into big-time football by investing £10m to buy a majority share in Leeds United.

Ken Bates, the irascible, outspoken former Chelsea chairman, wants to make one final foray into big-time football by investing £10m to buy a majority share in Leeds United.

In a move that is likely to stun Leeds supporters and arouse curiosity much further afield, Bates, 73, is understood to have offered the money to become part of a takeover at Elland Road being attempted by Sebastien Sainsbury.

Sainsbury is the only remaining bidder still involved in talks with the Leeds board, who have been looking to sell or find new investors for the past six months. Although a deal is still some way from completion, talks between Sainsbury and the Leeds chairman, Gerald Krasner, are ongoing about a £25m buy-out. The next round of talks is scheduled for tomorrow.

Bates and Sainsbury, accompanied by brokers and agents, were seen lunching together at The Dorchester Hotel in central London last week. According to one source, Bates told Sainsbury he would invest £10m in Sainsbury's consortium in exchange for 51 per cent of Leeds and the role of chairman.

"Ken said he had one more footballing adventure in him," the source said. "He's absolutely serious about it."

Bates could not be reached for comment last night. Sainsbury declined to discuss any of his business partners or potential partners. "I've got no comment to make about this at all," he added. "I'm just trying to concentrate on the important task of taking my plans forward."

Bates stepped down as the chairman at Stamford Bridge 10 months ago after being effectively ousted following Roman Abramovich's takeover.

Under the terms of that deal, which saved Chelsea from financial meltdown and netted Bates a personal windfall of £17m, Bates was due to remain as the chairman until the end of this season, when he would have become a life president.

The appointment of Peter Kenyon as Chelsea's chief executive led to conflict, however, and Bates also cited "a clash of Eastern and Western cultures" as he made an earlier exit than planned. Bates has since made an attempt to take control at financially troubled Sheffield Wednesday. But his offers of investment have been rebuffed.

It is not known whether Sainsbury intends to pursue Bates's offer, although any rebuttal might lead to Bates making his own independent attempt to take over at Elland Road. It is understood that Bates has not yet made any direct approach to Leeds.

Sainsbury has yet to reveal any of the fine detail of his own plans, including the identity of his backers or the precise nature of the technology-based business plan that he hopes will make his takeover sustainable. He has, however, already earmarked the person he wants to become the next manager at Leeds, if and when he succeeds in taking over.

"There's only one man for the job as I see it," he said yesterday. "And that man is Iain Dowie. He has all the abilities I'd want in a manager and all the experience and skills to take Leeds United up from the Championship to the Premiership."

Until Sainsbury actually completes any deal, Crystal Palace fans can rest easy, although the vehemence of his admiration for their manager might be of some concern. If Sainsbury does complete his buy-out, with or without Bates's money, he would be in a strong position to make an approach.

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