McKenzie to resign as Leeds chairman

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The Independent Football

Professor John McKenzie yesterday confirmed he will not be standing for re-election as the Leeds United plc chairman at next week's annual general meeting.

McKenzie has decided to step down to ensure there will be no conflict of interest should he represent potential investors in negotiations with the club's advisors or creditors during the next few critical weeks.

McKenzie, who only took over at the end of March following Peter Ridsdale's resignation, is understood to be mounting his own takeover bid, potentially with a Chinese consortium.

McKenzie said: "When I was appointed chairman of Leeds United plc I made it clear my immediate tasks were to stabilise the business, to improve our trading position, and to introduce a strong management team capable of achieving a robust, long-term restructuring package. We have cut £20m from our costs on an annualised basis and are now beginning to trade viably."

McKenzie was described as "damaged goods" by Dr Bill Gerrard, a professor of sport management and finance at Leeds University Business School and an outspoken critic of the United regime. Although McKenzie, who is Leeds' largest individual shareholder with four million shares, has been able to cut the club's costs, Gerrard believes the 65-year-old has a lot to answer for. Shareholders are understood to be irate at the fact that McKenzie has paid himself £380,000 in spite of the club's £80m debts.

McKenzie earns a basic salary of £80,000, added to which is a £100,000 wage for his non-executive position, topped off by £200,000 for what is described in the annual report for 2003 as "a consultancy fee".

"Professor McKenzie would have been absolutely slaughtered at the AGM by the shareholders next week," Gerrard said. "He is damaged goods. His reputation precedes him and there is a huge amount of hostility regarding his remuneration in the annual accounts. You have to remember this is a club teetering on the brink of administration and he has been paid up until September 2004. When that was disclosed I think that was the end of Professor McKenzie as a member of the Leeds United board."

It remains to be seen whether McKenzie can come up with his own rescue plan because Leeds have only five weeks to avoid administration.