Tag Archives: litigation

High Time That Profiteer Parasites GFH Took Some Responsibility – by Rob Atkinson

Cellino - silent and unimpressed

Cellino – silent and unimpressed

The fact that Leeds United have missed a 21 day deadline imposed by a Statutory Demand – for payment of just under £1m allegedly owed to David Haigh’s Sport Capital outfit – is capable of interpretation in a number of ways.

One is to take the gloomy view that new United owner Massimo Cellino is not quite as minted as we have been led to believe; that he is starting to struggle under the weight of outstanding bills left behind by previous owners notable mainly for their incompetence and lack of experience, along with sundry other negative attributes.  And yet Cellino has acted swiftly to clear debts up to this point; when HMRC were owed £500,000 in unpaid tax, the bill was settled in the first flush of the Corn King’s reign.  Likewise, former suitor for the club Andrew Flowers was paid off quickly and the players’ deferred wages were restored to them, saving them from inevitable penury and the soup kitchen, I shouldn’t wonder.

Cellino has remained silent on this latest financial demand.  The form-book, though, suggests that if he was both willing and able to pay up, he would have done so promptly, perhaps with a few typically acerbic Latin observations on the craziness of running a Championship club along the lines of one in the latter stages of the Champions League.

But nothing has yet happened – and obviously this has persuaded some that the scenario above – of Cellino being not exactly skint, but cash-strapped enough to prevaricate – is being proved true.

Another possible version of reality, though, is that Cellino, a downy bird if ever there was one, is determined not to be taken for a mug; determined not to pay up meekly when others might be liable for at least some of the burden.  The money that Haigh is demanding was put into the club at a time when GFH – as they loudly and repeatedly trumpeted – were still Leeds United owners, for as long as Cellino’s purchase of a controlling stake was still held up by Football League red tape.  As has since become clear, however, GFH throughout this time were resolved to avoid meeting the club’s running costs and relied instead on what they claimed were contractual provisions supposedly obliging Cellino to meet those costs – even though the success of his purchase was in extreme doubt. Cellino differed on that matter; although he had been funding the club, he cut that off when the League initially ruled against him, a ruling that made his chances of ultimately owning Leeds United seem remote indeed.

At this time, Leeds were therefore grubbing about for money wherever and however it might be obtained, in order to keep the ship afloat.  Can Cellino, who must have seen his prospects of becoming owner receding by the hour, really be held totally responsible for the debts incurred in running the club and paying the bills during this awkward limbo period when nobody really knew what was going to happen?  His verdict on that is likely to have been: Not on your Nélie.

Another relevant consideration is of just how well GFH did for themselves during the time they were in charge of Leeds.  The bald fact of the matter is that Gulf Finance House has reported a net gain of $6.46m (£3.8m) from the investment bank’s time as majority owner.  This will, of course, include those last few weeks of uncertainty when they basically backed away from any financial responsibility, pointing fingers at just about anybody else, but refusing to meet business costs from their own purse.  Elementary arithmetic shows that the money they avoided paying not only had to be provided from elsewhere – but also that the cash thus saved by GFH will appear as a significant part of that £3.8m GFH net gain.

Profiting from an abdication of responsibility?  You can bet that Signor Cellino is not too impressed by that – especially when he is now faced with a bill from one or more of the people who did pay up when Cellino was hamstrung by the Owners and Directors test – and when GFH were pouting and sulking and claiming that, despite being owners, it wasn’t their responsibility.

It is also a fact that, as part of the deal whereby Cellino’s Eleonora Sport bought a 75% stake in Leeds United, GFH have retained a 10% stake “in order to take advantage of future revenues” – in other words, because they wanted to make damned sure that they would get a fat slice of the cake as and when Leeds United return to the Premier League.  This will be seen by some as just good business practice – but it means also that GFH are still a part of the entity which now faces a winding-up petition – and yet they are apparently showing absolutely no sign of wishing to contribute towards the settling of that matter, even though the debt was incurred on their watch, due to their unwillingness to meet owners’ responsibilities at that time – and despite the fact that they were telling anyone who would listen that they were still in charge.

So now we have a situation whereby Cellino, having already stumped up millions during his brief time as owner, to settle legacy debts and repel winding-up orders, is faced with yet another bill – one incurred while he was not yet owner and one arguably attributable to the fact that the nominal owners GFH had put their wallets away and abandoned their financial responsibilities.  The same GFH who recorded a fat profit from a time in which they managed the club in a cack-handed way, the results of which are now at Cellino’s door.  And the same GFH that remains one-tenth owners of Leeds, ready to profit in that proportion from any future success, but seemingly unwilling to take anything like 10% of the responsibility for the currently pending litigation.  Does that seem remotely fair to you?

Football is business – big business.  But it’s not simply that.  It’s also an emotional matter, with complex questions of loyalty and commitment very much to the fore.  GFH remain on board at Leeds United – but it appears that they are here simply as parasites, unwilling to help or assist their host in any way, intent merely on sucking away greedily when the good times come around again.  That’s a deeply unattractive position to adopt, and the better it is recognised and understood by the fans, the worse it will reflect on GFH who, presumably, still have some interest in retaining a good name in the business world if not in the more parochial football sphere.

Cellino’s silence and inactivity in respect of David Haigh’s winding-up petition should really be seen in the light of the GFH stance – and not as any sign of poverty or lack of commitment on the Italian’s part. Massimo is no mug and it could well be the case that he is preparing to fight over this, even if the amount of money involved is small beer to him.  If GFH really are prepared to “lie low and do nuffink” until such time as there are dividends to be reaped on their 10% holding, then it’s laudable on Cellino’s part to stand up to them and make them pay up on their responsibilities, if possible – instead of simply allowing them to sit tight and reap a fat reward at some future date.  Surely fighting such unfairness has to be the right and proper thing to do.

The bill is due; it was incurred under GFH while they were cocking a deaf’un to the club creditors – including the playing and general staff.  Now it’s landed on Cellino’s doormat, and when he looks around, he sees only parasites – not partners.  That’s a tawdry and disgusting state of affairs.

If Massimo Cellino is prepared to contest this current matter on that basis, then this blog is of the opinion that he deserves the support of all Leeds United fans in bringing GFH to account.  Good luck to him in this – and also in the greater battles ahead as he looks to restore Leeds United to the game’s top table.

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Is Jason Puncheon Above His Weight in Attacking Ex-Leeds Boss Colin? – by Rob Atkinson

Warnock: denial

Warnock: denial

Oh, dear.  Here’s a spat that could have far-reaching consequences.  Firstly Neil Warnock, fondly known as “Colin” by his legions of ex-fans, was heard on pisspoor radio station TalkSPORT to be making jovial remarks about his former player Jason Puncheon – after the latter missed a penalty against Spurs at the weekend.  Colin opined that Puncheon lacked the “cool” to be selected as spot-kick man at a place like White Hart Lane.  Jason was understandably not a happy bunny over this and he launched a series of irate tweets, many of which were swiftly deleted – and at least some of which appeared to make allegations possibly concerning the probity of Warnock in matters not unrelated to the appearance bonuses of players under his managership.  Hell, it seems, hath no fury like a footballer dissed on the wireless and determined to bite back via Twitter.

Jason Puncheon

Jason Puncheon

Warnock has since confirmed that the matters apparently raised in the ether are being “addressed on his behalf” directly to Puncheon.  One senses the impending involvement of Messrs Sue, Grabbitt & Runn.  It’s foreseeable from this point that a welter of denials and counter-accusations may well follow, and that at some point, the FA could wish to become involved.

Whether this gathering storm has any rain to shed upon Leeds United remains to be seen.  There are those who are wondering away, in various social media, as to whether any light may be cast on the contractual situation and selection records of various un-named individuals who somehow managed to earn a living at Elland Road during the Colin era, despite a puzzling lack of form or fitness for a playing role with a major professional football club.  Such are the whisperings that are always likely to go back and forth in the aftermath of hasty and precipitate tweets, especially tweets that appeared to allege various practices upon which the game’s governing bodies would be likely to look with grim disapproval – to say the very least.

Of course these matters, once put out there into the public domain, even if only for the briefest period – will have to be looked into.  It’s possible to read a certain amount into the fact that the two men have worked together at the same club, QPR, and that – therefore – anything said in public might be expected to have some grain of truth in it, failing which it might be deemed extremely unwise and possibly costly, once the legal eagles (with apologies to Puncheon’s current employers Crystal Palace FC) get their talons into it.

For the sake of clarity and in the interests of avoiding any possible murkiness surrounding what is likely to be a developing story, a screenshot from the Twitter feed concerned is reproduced below.  The blue touch paper appears to have been lit – it may swiftly become clearer as to the explosive potential of the detonation which could now result.

Those tweets, captured before disappearing

Those tweets, captured before disappearing

Latest Bates Court Case Could Cost Leeds United Over £1m – by Rob Atkinson

Image

Cuddly yet litigious Uncle Ken

Ken Bates is due back in his favourite arena shortly as the litigation fanatic returns to the courtroom – and this time the quarry in his sights is Leeds United AFC itself.

The latest legal wrangle concerns Bates’ abruptly-terminated role as Leeds president – a position he was entitled to as a non-negotiable condition of the sale of Leeds United to present owners GFH Capital.  Bates remained in an executive position for some months after the sale, and was then due to move into the honorary office of Club President for a three year term ending in 2016.  However, only a matter of months into this arrangement, Bates was dismissed by GFH for “gross misconduct”.

The gross misconduct cited was said to consist of agreeing a contract (worth £500,000) for private jet travel for Bates between Leeds and his home base in Monaco.  The agreement was said to have been put in place without the knowledge or consent of the new board.  Bates will argue that the contract was set up while he was still chairman and therefore had the executive power to negotiate and authorise such a deal.  It has also emerged that, although his term as President came with a £250,000 a year salary – £750,000 over the three year term – Bates had waived this remuneration.  He has, after all, frequently claimed that he “never took a penny out of the club”.

The current legal tussle started when Leeds United sought reimbursement from Bates of costs incurred partly from the private jet contract, together with other expenses in excess of £100,000 including meals and Sky TV subscriptions which the club allege were not used to the benefit of the club.  Bates has entered a defence against that action, and counter-claimed for “wrongful dismissal” in the matter of the early termination of his Presidency.  It is thought that, if Bates were to be successful in a wrongful dismissal claim, he could be entitled to part or all of the £750,000 salary package technically due for the 3 year Presidential term, a sum he had voluntarily waived.  Legal costs on top of that could push United’s bill up over one million pounds.

These revelations come at a time when Managing Director David Haigh – a prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Northampton South and new Chairman of Leeds United Ladies – has revealed that he has injected “a seven figure sum” into Leeds United AFC, to go towards Brian McDermott’s team-strengthening plans in the January transfer window. The irony of this is plain – should Bates be successful in his courtroom strategy, the club might possibly break even over the next few months, with Haigh’s seven-figure sum probably just about offsetting the amount Leeds could have to shell out to the wily Riviera-based octogenarian.  Swings and roundabouts.

Leeds United fans will have to cross their fingers and hope that the forthcoming court case ends as many have before, with Ken having to retire to his lair and lick his wounds. Ironically, it’s understood that in those previous instances of legal defeat, it’s often been Leeds United who had to pick up the bill, as Chairman Ken was allegedly sallying forth into battle backed by club funds.  We must sit and wait, in the hope that some of those pigeons now come home to roost and that Bates is finally sent packing without having further drained the resources of the club he’s claimed to have twice “saved”.

Bates Leaves Leeds on a Typically Sour Note

Not-So-Cuddly Ken

Not-So-Cuddly Ken

It came out of the blue in a terse statement from Leeds United: Ken Bates would no longer be club president, and all his connections with the club had been severed forthwith. No reasons were initially given – and quite frankly, nobody at first cared. The main thing was, Bates was gone. He was going to be President of the club for life, then it was going to be only three years (there may not actually have been much of a difference between those first two) – but now he was gone, history, end of. Bye bye, Ken. Don’t let the door whack you in the arse on the way out.

Now, though, more details have emerged as to the reason for Bates’ abrupt departure. It appears that Ken – never a man to underestimate his own importance – had committed the club to a £500k contract for private jet flight to and from the Monaco bolt-hole of il Presidente for matchday travel. No RyanAir or EasyJet for Uncle Ken, you see, he was going to do it in style and, as ever, the club – the fans – would be the ones forking out for it. This, then, is the straw that has broken the Dubai-based camel’s back. Ken received a missive, delivered by hand, informing him that his non-services would no longer be required.

Staggeringly, Ken seems to resent this. After all the legal shenanigans that have punctuated his reign of terror in LS11, costing the club a reported £4m, he now feels that he is a wronged party, that Leeds United have treated him “despicably” and that he should be compensated. So, he intends to sally forth to pursue his favourite pastime of litigation – with Leeds United this time in the respondent’s box, as opposed to blindly funding his deluded fantasies. The irony of this is breathtaking, and it is only to be hoped that the British legal system has finally had enough of this irascible old man’s nonsense and will proceed to laugh him out of court. Football’s had its fill of Ken – honestly, hasn’t the whole country?

This, let us not forget, is the man who proposed (quite seriously) that fences enclosing fans on the terraces should be electrified to dissuade those of an eager disposition from getting at rival fans or the field of play itself. Who knows what that might have led to if the whole concept of fencing hadn’t become deeply unfashionable in the wake of Hillsborough? This is the man who declared his ambition to be the ejection of Leeds United and its “animal” followers from the Football League, following the actions of a group of freelance demolition contractors from Yorkshire in disabling the Stamford Bridge electronic scoreboard in 1984. Big Brother was watching us, and he decreed we weren’t fit to be part of the football family. He wanted us out – and he so nearly achieved his objective, didn’t he? This is the man, after all, who presided over the lowest point in Leeds United’s history. Ken Bates is a name that will forever be associated in the minds of Leeds fans with failure, corruption and despair.

Ken Bates and his megaphone mouth, unconnected to anything remotely resembling a brain, has represented everything bad about football for decades now – and it’s time we all had a well-earned rest from him. It is perhaps fitting that Bates and Ferguson – two markedly less-than-pleasant football personalities – should be heading into the sunset at the same time. Having the name of Ken Bates connected to the club I love has been a deeply horrible experience for me and thousands of my fellow Leeds United fans. The final separation looks highly unlikely to be amicable – Uncle Ken is far too self-involved and vindictive for that – but it is nonetheless a most welcome development for anyone with the best interests of Leeds United at heart. Ironically, GFH Capital are now quoting a confidentiality clause in refusing to comment on the reasons for the End of Ken, something the Bearded Gob used extensively during the endless takeover saga last year. So for the time being, Bates is wasting his bile on the desert air and getting no official response. But many thousands of happy individuals in Leeds United colours would be happy to deliver one last message to him.

Sod off, Ken, and take your legal team with you.