Leeds are on course to be under new, North American ownership after the 49ers Enterprises agreed a full takeover of the Championship club on Friday night.
In buying out Andrea Radrizzani, the United States based 49ers, an investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers, will up their holding in Leeds from 44% to 100% control. Although the deal still needs to pass the English Football League’s owners’ and directors’ test, a process expected to take a number of weeks, the requirement is regarded as a formality.
The reason it is likely to take most of the summer for the EFL to grant its official blessing is that 49ers Enterprises comprises approximately 60 individual investors loosely connected to the NFL franchise. All must be individually examined by the EFL before Radrizzani can formally cut ties in West Yorkshire. The Italian media executive has held a majority stake in Leeds for the last six years after buying the club from Massimo Cellino for £45m.
With Radrizzani now part of a consortium currently completing the purchase of the Italian club Sampdoria, 49ers Enterprises has valued Leeds at £170m. Had they retained Premier League status last month, that price would have been around £400m.
The agreement, announced by Leeds on Friday night , means that much needed reconstruction and updating work at the rather tired Elland Road is expected to begin next season. Reviving, and ultimately expanding, the club’s home has long been the vision of Paraag Marathe, the president of 49ers Enterprises who is set to assume the chairmanship of Leeds. Angus Kinnear, a close ally of Marathe, is expected to remain as chief executive. Kinnear has enjoyed considerable success in that role, increasing the club’s turnover and maximising commercial revenue streams.
It remains to be seen whether Peter Lowy will continue his involvement. The Australian, currently domiciled in California, is a long-term Leeds fan who is currently on the Elland Road board and has been regarded as a key investor. It had been feared that relegation from the Premier League would end Lowy’s role, but such concerns may yet prove unfounded.
The new board’s immediate task is to appoint a new manager to guide Leeds’s attempt at returning to the top tier in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s departure. Allardyce had been in charge for the final four games of a chaotic season during which the club had four different managers.
Radrizzani’s failure to identify a suitable successor for the much adored Marcelo Bielsa, who was sacked last year, means few tears are being shed in West Yorkshire for an owner who arguably kept faith in the club’s former director of football, Victor Orta, for too long. While Orta was dismissed along with Javi Gracia last month, Radrizzani’s popularity was hardly enhanced by the revelation that he had, at one point, offered to use Elland Road as collateral in his bid to buy Sampdoria.