Ken Bates could make a sensational return to football today as Leeds United’s potential saviour, although a three-way race has developed to take over the cash-strapped club.
Leeds have been in negotiations with the former Chelsea chairman for the past few days, and such has been the rapid progress made, Bates (above) could be in place tonight.
However, the United board also remains in discussion with a consortium led by the Leeds-based property developer Norman Stubbs and a third group with whom the chairman Gerald Krasner held talks in London this week.
Bates was recently linked with Sebastien Sainsbury’s failed £25m takeover bid, only to deny any involvement with the great-grandson of the supermarket founder. But Bates has since made his own approach, and with other investors by his side, the 73-year-old has seemingly moved into pole position.
A Leeds spokesman Bryan Morris confirmed: “We are still talking to all consortiums and Mr Bates is one of those. No deal has been finalised but as soon as negotiations have been concluded we will issue a further statement.”
Sources have indicated that Leeds may well be in the hands of new owners before the weekend, averting the prospect of administration, and with it a 10-point Football League penalty that would plunge Kevin Blackwell’s side into the relegation zone.
There is the suggestion, though, that one group is being played off against the other in order to push through a deal as quickly as possible.
Bates has made it known, since parting from Chelsea just over 10 months ago with a £17m pay-off from Roman Abramovich, that he is eager to return to football. He long courted Sheffield Wednesday, only to find his money was not welcome with the chairman Dave Allen and the rest of the board, despite the club’s debts of more than £25m.
Bates’ former club, Chelsea, are paying nearly £25 to terminate their shirt deal with Umro 5 years into a 10-year contract. Addidas and Nike are the likely contenders for the new deal, but don’t the plucky folks at Cafepress.com, who can easily whip up some white t-shirts and mousepads for the Chelsea Village superstore on short notice.