Leeds' new owners will keep club at Elland Road

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mr Fixit Fox, one of the characters created by the children's author Richard Scarry, solved the problem of a leaking boat by drilling a second hole in the floor of the vessel to let the water out.

Mr Fixit Fox, one of the characters created by the children's author Richard Scarry, solved the problem of a leaking boat by drilling a second hole in the floor of the vessel to let the water out.

Yesterday Gerald Krasner, Elland Road's third chairman in a year, and the latest band of Fixit Foxes arrived for their first day at Leeds United, a club which, until their takeover on Friday, resembled an ocean-going colander.

The strategy adopted by Krasner and his Yorkshire consortium, who took over the club for £22m, is that even if Leeds survive in the Premiership there will be a wholesale player sale to remove some £15m from the wage bill. Nevertheless, although Elland Road may be sold and leased back, the ground which acclaimed the deeds of Don Revie's merciless side will not be becoming a Tesco's with a Peter Lorimer memorial delicatessen.

Lorimer is now on Krasner's board, to provide credibility and a link with the supporters. Yesterday he was scathing about the men who ran the club he had helped take to the pinnacle of English football. "Harry Reynolds, Manny Cousins, Don Revie, John Charles and Billy Bremner; people who gave this club a great reputation, I shudder to imagine what they would think of this. They would be spinning in their graves." For someone who describes himself as a 'blunt-talking Yorkshireman', Krasner proved remarkably elusive. He would not reveal how much the club still owes, though it is believed to be in the region of £30m. He would not reveal who had provided the finance for the takeover, although Jack Petchey, the former Watford chairman, is believed to have made £15m available.

Even the position of Geoffrey Richmond, the former Bradford chairman, who has advised the Yorkshire consortium was unclear. Richmond joked that he has not even been paid in cigarettes but he is likely to become the club's new chief executive on the departure of Trevor Birch, whom Krasner credits with saving Leeds from administration and oblivion.

There have been remarkable positives from the deal; the wage deferrals which have been in place for a month, are now over while Leeds are no longer paying part of Robbie Fowler's salary at Manchester City. From now on, the revenue from every season ticket sold which had previously gone straight to the bondholders, will go to the club. Leeds also own outright the contracts of all their players, some of whom had been signed on hire purchase. Now all the players have to do is keep Leeds in the Premiership.

It is not hard to see who will leave. All those brought on loan by Peter Reid; Didier Domi, Salomon Olembe, Lamine Sakho and Jermaine Pennant will go as will Steven Caldwell. So will three veteran big-wage earners, David Batty, Lucas Radebe and Jason Wilcox. Mark Viduka, who earns £3.5m a year, may be too costly to retain while the sale of goalkeeper Paul Robinson to Tottenham is reportedly a done deal.

"I could take you upstairs, show you some of the contracts and you would be shocked," said Richmond, whose regime at Bradford collapsed with £36m of debts, epitomised by the arrival of Benito Carbone on wages of £40,000 a week. "Fifteen players are on £1m a year or more. Their combined wages are £30m and you still have 45 professionals to pay. £11m worth of contracts expire on 30 June. It is unlikely that the board will offer renewals to any of those."

That the bondholders, who had loaned £60m to refinance the club, and the Guernsey-based company, Registered European Football Finance, who provided £22m to buy players for David O'Leary had settled for such a relatively small sum was a triumph for the consortium.

"The bondholders were faced with a very difficult situation," Richmond said. "If the club went into administration, they had the security of this stadium but would you really like to be the person who sells Elland Road and starts building a supermarket? The bondholders probably did as well or better this side of administration as they would have done the other side."

When Richmond was first asked for his help, he refused, saying the consortium was "crazy" that they should wait for Leeds to slip into administration. The stakes are high. Two of the consortium have their houses on the line, one has risked his business. Richmond said that the collapse of Bradford left him "very nearly a broken man". Krasner must hope he will leave Leeds intact, financially and emotionally.

Comments