As early as Tuesday of last week, reports of a takeover by energy drinks giant Red Bull began to surface. A call was apparently placed to the office of The Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP) by a source close to the talks claiming that a takeover bid was in progress, with the Austrian company said to be wanting complete ownership of the club. The story was immediately dismissed at YEP Headquarters as a hoax, but later resurfaced in The Daily Mail late on Saturday.
The story was immediately, and very publicly dismissed by Massimo Cellino as “bullsh*t, a complete lie”, but not before the charismatic Italian let slip that he had indeed had discussions with Red Bull, but only three months ago, and only with regards to Sponsorship possibilities, something Red Bull has stated is not a possibility given their current approach of “all or nothing” when pertaining to involvement in football clubs. Red Bull, to quote their own executives, have always tried to maximise their permitted input when investing in a partner company or football club.
As with most major footballing stories, there is no smoke without fire, and this fire may have been caused by Mr. Cellino’s pants. We can exclusively reveal that prolonged talks, planned well in advance, took place between Massimo Cellino and two Red Bull executives throughout the day on Thursday (October 30th), with all parties agreeing on complete discretion. Red Bull were in no way aware that the story had already been offered to The Yorkshire Evening Post, and it is suggested that they would have walked away immediately had they been aware.
The Red Bull connection does not stop there however, as the Red Bull executives who had sat with Cellino at Elland Road during the defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers hold the belief that Massimo Cellino used his new relationship with former Leeds United Chairman Ken Bates to leak the story to The Daily Mail in order to start a potential bidding war for The Whites, as confirmed by a trusted source who spoke with a Red Bull representative at their German offices in Frankfurt.
This violation of Red Bull’s trust has not yet killed off the potential deal, said to include the purchase of Elland Road and Thorp Arch, but has certainly placed it on life support. Red Bull are said to be licking their wounds, and may revisit the takeover at a later date, presumably at a reduced price should The Football League bar Cellino from his current role as majority shareholder.
Cellino’s week rapidly degraded into chaos after the the Red Bull talks, as he had to face the media on Tuesday of this week and admit that he could not complete the purchase of Elland Road, despite several promises to do so since his takeover. Massimo Cellino cited difficulties with his partnership with Gulf Finance House Capital (GFHc) as the reason behind the Elland Road u-turn, and told reporters that GFHc had yet to return their signed copy of the much publicized revision of the Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) between the two parties. While the lack of signature on the document does not make the document invalid, it does require court intervention to force it into effect, a long and costly process for all involved.
Cellino suggested to reporters that the club had the financial backing to complete the purchase, but it would be reckless to do so as “other parties would benefit” and it was “in the best interests of the club to not make the purchase”. In a surprising move by GFH, they released a scathing and immediate rebuttal of the accusations by Cellino and accused the Italian of reneging on their original agreement, saying “We wanted Cellino to show commitment to his obligations under [the] sale agreement since he has only paid part not all of his obligations”. The Dubai based investment group, twenty-five percent shareholders in Leeds United, also told reporters that they had “only agreed to the sale of Ross McCormack on the grounds that the money would be used to purchase [the] stadium”.
In a further and thus-far unreported development, it has emerged from inside the club that Cellino is disheartened and disillusioned with life at Leeds United after the FA and The Football League refused to commit to an official stance on whether his long term future at the club is confirmed, as requested by an American financier who sought assurances when approached by Cellino to assist with funding the acquisition of the famous Elland Road stadium. Cellino is set to return Stateside after the Leeds United vs Blackpool game on Saturday to continue talks.
Whatever your opinion on Cellino, you have got to feel for a man whose terrible week culminated in Leeds United holding a league record of 17 points, 17 goals scored, and in 17th place in the league. Cellino has long been convinced that the number seventeen is his unlucky number. I for one am starting to see why.