Consortium's £20m offer gives Leeds new hope

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The Independent Football

Leeds United are considering an eleventh-hour £20m bid by a mystery consortium of four Yorkshire-based businessmen. Even Leeds' most senior executives do not know the identities of the bidders, who have invoked their right to client confidentiality and have made their approach solely via their accountants and solicitors.

A flurry of weekend speculation suggested the bid might involve a remarkable footballing renaissance for businessman Geoffrey Richmond. The former chairman of Bradford, who oversaw a catastrophic financial meltdown at Valley Parade, denied any involvement last night.

"I've had my 15 years in the game and I've got my bruises," he said. "I've got absolutely no interest in Leeds whatsoever, although I wish good luck to whoever has."

Another name being linked to the bid is that of Jeremy Fenn, a former Leeds chief executive from the pre-Ridsdale era. He has long established ties to the club and is associated with the Leeds-supporting computer millionaire, Peter Wilkinson, who has been touted as a possible saviour in the past. No one at Leeds has any idea whether either men are involved in the new offer.

The consortium's bid, despite being faceless, is being taken seriously. Leeds' latest deadline to stave off administration expires at midnight tonight. The club's chief executive and acting chairman, Trevor Birch, needs to buy more time or face turning Leeds over to administrators tomorrow. Club insiders feel there is a "50-50 chance" of administration within a fortnight. "It could genuinely go either way," a source said.

Birch could sell players to the value of £5m, which is the amount Leeds need to keep afloat until the end of the season, but is loath to weaken the squad. Another plea to the players to take a 30 per cent wage deferral is likely to face resistance. His third option is to persuade the creditors that a viable rescue plan is in the pipeline.

The consortium's bid hinges on whether they can do a deal with the club's major creditors involving Elland Road. Instead of Leeds paying all the £60m they owe to bondholders, they would forfeit ownership of Elland Road. The bondholders would then lease the stadium back to the club.

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