Birch pins hopes on 'four bids' for club

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The Independent Football

Trevor Birch, Leeds United's chief executive, said yesterday that he was hopeful of "salvaging something from the wreckage" of the club's perilous financial situation and revealed that he is expecting at least four bids for the Premiership's basement side.

Birch has brokered a "standstill agreement" with Leeds' major creditors. This has freed £5.8m of cash to be used to keep the business afloat until 19 January. In the interim, his sole task, one he describes as "a genuinely 24-hour job", will be to find a buyer for the club.

"We're just looking for somebody who can put the club back on a sound financial footing," he said. "We won't know until they come forward, but hopefully everybody now knows we're for sale and we only have a short time in which to conclude a deal."

Birch confirmed to The Independent that he expects several bidders for the club, although confidentiality issues prevented him from providing details. One strong contender is likely to be Allan Leighton, the former Leeds plc deputy chairman. His resignation on Thursday signalled he is likely to be formulating some kind of rescue package.

A second offer, yet to be disclosed, is likely from a fans' consortium who want to establish a community-based organisation to take Leeds forward. Supporters' groups are in the early stages of planning.

Another bid could come from a Middle East consortium fronted by the Bahraini businessman, Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa. A company associated with the sheikh has made an approach to Leeds but has not yet made a bid or outlined its plans.

The fight for control might also include businessman Peter Wilkinson, a lifelong Leeds fan who has amassed a fortune estimated at £400m through computing ventures, including the Freeserve company.

It is possible that some of these candidates might work in conjunction with another, with a partnership between Leighton and the sheikh being touted as a possibility. The fact that at least four interested parties could be involved, with others potentially still to come forward, indicates healthy competition, which can only be a good thing for Leeds.

"I'm hopeful," said Birch, who insisted he is happy with his recent move from Chelsea to Leeds. He added he was unsure how a buyout would affect his own position and joked that someone should start a sweepstake about where he is heading next. Dundee, perhaps?

As Birch waited yesterday to see precisely what prospective bidders can offer, further revelations surrounding Sheikh Abdulrahman emerged. One of his closest friends, Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammad al-Khalifa, who is Bahrain's head of youth sport and chairman of Bahrain's new Grand Prix circuit, said the sheikh was "just a front man" for Arab investment in Leeds.

"He has lined up a group of Arab investors," Sheikh Fawaz said. "I know he has been shuttling back and forth to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. I don't know if he has a stake himself in the deal." Reports that Sheikh Abdulrahman is a super-rich benefactor appear to have been misguided. The sheikh, 44, a genuine Leeds fan, has never made any such claims on his own behalf.

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