49ers Enterprises’ plans for the takeover of Leeds United met a roadblock overnight [5 January], when it was revealed by The Daily Mail that an unknown Middle Eastern consortium has also expressed an interest in buying the club.
Interest is said to be in the “very early” stages, yet the fact it is reportedly there at all complicates matters for the 49ers.
The 49ers’ stake in the ownership of the Whites has increased over time, with them now possessing 44% of the club compared to chairman Andrea Radrizzani’s 56% share.
A deal also exists for the American franchise to buy Radrizzani out by January 2024 at the latest, indicating that the Italian intends to relinquish full ownership of the Yorkshire club sometime in the next year.
This led many Leeds supporters to believe a takeover to be imminent, with some even speculating that it could have happened as early as this January.
While these developments are yet to materialise – and are incredibly unlikely to do so at this stage – the reported interest of an unknown Middle Eastern group may force the 49ers to expedite takeover proceedings.
If the Whites were to be taken over by this anonymous consortium they would join Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Fulham and Leicester in having Middle Eastern owners.
If these reported rumours of interest are credible, then Leeds United’s takeover by 49ers Enterprises could be under real threat dependent on how much their competitors are willing to pay for the ownership of the West Yorkshire club.
However, the business sense of such a development has to be questioned. Why would Radrizzani attempt to undercut an investor who already has a 44% stake in the club and has expressed a clear intent to fully buy him out in the future?
From my perspective, this ‘interest’ is designed to hurry the 49ers up and get them to assume full ownership as soon as possible. They still remain the favourites.
If Leeds were owned by anyone other than 49ers Enterprises next year it would be very surprising.