Friday, June 29, 2012

Leeds United in talkover talks: Legal expert warns Whites fans to exercise due caution

Yorkshire Post 29/6/12
By Phil Hay
The update on investment issued by Leeds United on Tuesday predicted that due diligence carried out by prospective buyers of the club would be a “fairly straightforward process”.
United’s board might foresee no obvious sticking points but their confidence under-played the nature of the work taken on by lawyers acting for the purchasers.
According to one specialist, due diligence on a club and a company as large as Leeds amounts to a “painstaking root-and-branch review” of every ounce of paperwork at Elland Road.
Richard Cramer, an expert in sports law with Front Row Legal, told the YEP earlier this week that confirmation of an exclusivity period granted to the unnamed party bidding to take control of Leeds implied that a deal had been agreed in principle and was perhaps as far forward as “90 per cent done”.
But Cramer has played down the assumption that a takeover at Elland Road is effectively a formality with due diligence underway, describing the process as “extremely sensitive and very complex”.
“I’ve seen people get right to the death in these situations and get cold feet at the last minute,” he said. “Due diligence is a case of buyer-beware – their chance to be as certain as they can be about a company’s strengths and its liabilities.”
Cramer’s view is that due diligence as extensive as that involving a club like Leeds would fall to a ‘Magic Circle’ company – one of the largest UK law firms based in London, among which Clifford Chance, Linklaters and DLA Piper are commonly listed.
“There are companies in Leeds with the man-power to handle the work,” Cramer said. “But you’d expect a job of this size to fall to a Magic Circle firm more often than not. These firms employ thousands of staff and have the resources needed to do due diligence within a certain timescale.
“The benefit of an exclusivity clause is that it usually gives a would-be buyer carte blanche to go through the books from front to back but most clauses also include a time frame or a deadline of some sort. That might well be the case with Leeds and these investors. Due diligence can’t be an endless process and you need an awful lot of people with the right expertise to carry it out efficiently and properly.
“Whoever is doing the work will be well paid for it but in my experience their main concern will be getting it right and making sure they don’t miss anything critical.
“The priority is to go through the sale-purchase agreement and highlight everything the buyer needs to be aware of and take into consideration – good and bad.”
Leeds United Football Club Limited – the club itself – is a profitable company which has yielded gains during every financial year since United’s administration in 2007. The most recent profit, for the 12 months up to June 30, 2011 came in at £3.5m, including an operating profit of almost £1m.
Leeds United Football Club Limited is wholly owned by Leeds City Holdings Limited, a company which in turn owns a number of other firms with connections to the club. Even the single matter of the wage bill at Elland Road goes far beyond the playing squad and football management team headed up by Neil Warnock.
“There’s a huge difference between buying a club like Oldham Athletic out of administration and buying a club like Leeds as they are now,” Cramer said.
“Administration is an asset sale where buyers have the flexibility to pick and choose which assets they want. With a share sale, you’re effectively buying the whole company and everything that comes with it. That’s why you need to be absolutely clear on how much money is coming in, how much is going out and what exactly you’re taking on.
“You need to study employment contracts, not just of players but of every member of staff. You need to analyse tax bills, rent, intellectual property, commercial agreements and sponsorship deals. You also need to know about any money the club are owed and any debts they have. All in all it creates a picture of how strong the business is and how successful it can be.
“Proper due diligence covers absolutely everything and it’s not an overnight process, not even close. It’s a painstaking root and branch review and the devil is always in the detail.”
The would-be investors granted access to the books at Elland Road are believed to have strong links to the Middle East, though United have made no comment on their identities or nationality.
In a statement released on Tuesday evening, the club said: “Leeds United can confirm they have granted an exclusivity period to enable a potential investor to carry out the appropriate due diligence. It is anticipated this will be a fairly straightforward process.
“Our discussions have left us very comfortable that they have the financial resources to support the club and that they will have no issues in satisfying the requirements of the Football League’s Owners and Directors Test, unlike many of the previous approaches we have had to endure.”
The mention of the Owners and Directors Test – a test which the Football League carries out on any individual who acquires a stake of 30 per cent or more in one of its member clubs – gave a clear indication that recent talks had been aimed at a full takeover. Bates is presently the majority shareholder at Leeds, with a 72.85 per cent stake.
Cramer said: “A buyer wouldn’t reach this stage unless they were set on completing the transaction. That doesn’t mean they’ll go through with it no matter what but exclusivity periods can cost a fee. Sometimes you have an agreement which states that if the buyer pulls out without reasonable justification, they have to pay the legal costs of both sides.
“It’s easy to assume that if someone is looking to buy a club they put an acceptable offer on the table and shake hands. But football is almost incidental to the structure of the organisation and the decision to buy. There’s much more to it than that.”

Radio Leeds interview

LUST Chairman Gary Cooper on Radio Leeds re the takeover

Well that was a very positive interview.
Gary was pushed on name twice but didn't budge however alluded to many rumours are most probably accurate re middle east take over.
Could this be a take over of Man City proportions he was asked.
When this comes of Leeds fans should/could dare to dream.
When asked if it could be today he said he expects next week. Always has but it could be anytime now, he wouldn't be surprised so to speak!!!
This is great great news and far too positive for any othe outcome but complete takeover and very very soon!

Here we go, here we go, here we go...


Phil Hay ‏@PhilHayYEP
At the moment I've got no firm indication of when #lufc takeover will be formally sealed and announced but it's very close.

Phil Hay ‏@PhilHayYEP
The takeover at #lufc appears to be reaching its end-game. I understand that the deal with a group from the Middle East is all but done

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scratching Shed and Radio Leeds

The Scratching Shed 26/6/12
Takeover: Exclusivity Period Granted – Statement
After almost a month of uncharacteristic radio silence, Leeds’ official website has today announced that it has granted a period of exclusivity for a potential “investor” to carry out due diligence:
Further to our previous statement of the 29th May, Leeds United can confirm they have granted an exclusivity period to enable a potential investor to carry out the appropriate due diligence.
It is anticipated this will be a fairly straightforward process.
A confidentiality clause prevents the club from making any further comment. However, our discussions with them have left us very comfortable that they have the financial resources to support the club and that they will have no issues in satisfying the requirements of the Football League’s Owners and Directors Test, unlike many of the previous approaches we have had to endure.
This comes a week after the Leeds United Supporters Trust called for fans to be kept up to date without “putting a spanner in the works”. The announcement confirms that the club are legally not allowed to speak on the matter, and the last sentence of the statement points to the rumours of several bids being true. Unsubstantiated rumours had it that one group pulled out of negotiations last Friday following a gulf in valuations.
The statement would suggest a deal has been agreed in principle, and a deal edging closer will please fans, and I’m sure all parties involved, but not least Neil Warnock who will hope to be able to make a splash as the transfer market heats up in the coming month. Warnock divulged his desire to sign most of his targets before Leeds’ pre-season tour to the Westcountry next month, and has received glowing reports from players at the club including captain Robert Snodgrass, and highly rated full-back Adam Drury.
It’s not clear whether the group who seems to have won the race is one of the three parties who spoke to LUST and agreed their supporters’ vision, or another group, but it is thought that this will be a buyout rather than minor-shareholding investment. This is backed by talk of the Owners and Directors Test which would suggest a major position of power granted to the group at least.
On Twitter, The Supporters Trust said it was:
aware of and cautiously welcomes the latest statement by the club.

Radio Leeds with gary Cooper
Presenter: Lets hear Gary Cooper now from the Leeds United Supporters Trust, evening Gary
Gary Cooper: Evening
Presenter: What do you make of the statement released today?
GC: Well I'm really pleased that the club have made a statement. At the public meeting we had last Week it was very clear that the supporters were pushing very hard for the club to make some kind of statement and let them know what is going on. We reiterated that when we spoke to you last week so we bagging the club and said come on let's know what was happening. I'm very pleased that the club has come out and done this and thank you very much for letting us know. It's great news like Adam said it does open the door to a great deal of possibilities and opportunities but I think it is absolutely brilliant news.
Presenter: As you say it opens the door and if there was speculation before there certainly will be now as to who the potential investors are and whether this is investment or takeover.
GC: Well, I can say that the information we have received is that this is a takeover I think we are pretty confident in that. The statement from the club does tend to leave it a little bit open-ended and it could be interpreted in a couple of ways but from the sources we have spoken to we are confident that this is the takeover we felt would be in place.
Presenter: How long do you think that this due diligence process will take and if it is what you think it is as a takeover how long do you think that that will take as well?
GC: In all honesty that's a difficult question to answer. I am am pretty certain that perhaps things are are a little bit more advanced than the statement suggests so I would be hopeful that more positive news could break sooner rather than later. That said due diligence is a complicated process at best and if its going to be done it needs to be done correctly though I would urge the supporters of Leeds United to allow the potential buyers the opportunity to do this without the frenzy of knowing who they are at present. Let's get the process underway, let's get it done and I'm pretty certain we'll all come out the other side very happy.
Presenter: How much financial clout do you expect these potential investors to have? The statement says, "..the discussions we have had have left us very comfortable that they have the financial resources to support the club and also that they have no issues that they will satisfy the the requirements of the Football Leagues owners and directors test. You seem to know quite a bit that what you are divulging to us, but, seemingly these is going to benefit Leeds United.
GC: You would hope so, certainly if we go back to the original statement that the club put out on the 29th May that statement said that they would look to bringing in investors that would be for the long-term future of Leeds United. Now I think regardless of how you would interpret that the long-term future of Leeds United means that we need owners that are financially able to give us the security of our own ground, our own training ground as well and to invest on the team on the pitch to give us and our manager the opportunity to do what he's set out to do and that is to get us promoted next season. I'm confident that these people are very much in a position to able to do that.
Presenter: When you say in a position to do that are we talking the Championship of Roman Abramovich or is this just a decent amount of cash that the club will be able to throw at transfer fees, they are not going to pay their way out of the championship?
GC: It would be wrong of me to say any more but I would urge the new buyers to support Neil Warnock and to show that long-term future for the club that the club statement on 29th May asked for. I'm confident that they can do that.
Presenter: If we're speaking again at the end of this next season and this investment has gone through, how will you envisage Leeds United's season going with the backing of this investment?
GC: I can only go back to our Vision Statement in January the ambition is there for all to see. Adam was very eloquent when he talks about the potential for Leeds United. The fans know that and I think that football supporters all around the world know that. Everyone knows about Leeds United with the right investment and the right people at the helm the potential for this club is amazing. Lets hope we're going to see that recognised. The fans have waited very patiently,the fans have been brilliant, they have waited very patiently for something really positive to come from what's been a few years now of difficult times, lower gates, lowest position in the league, record defeats at home, best players being sold. But there's been some positives from the current owners, we've had the East stand improvements and we seem to be financially in a decent position, so now seems the right time for someone to come in and take it on to that extra step.
Presenter: Gary, thank you very much for joining us this evening.

Further to our previous statement of the 29th May, Leeds United can confirm they have granted an exclusivity period to enable a potential investor to carry out the appropriate due diligence.
It is anticipated this will be a fairly straightforward process.
A confidentiality clause prevents the club from making any further comment. However, our discussions with them have left us very comfortable that they have the financial resources to support the club and that they will have no issues in satisfying the requirements of the Football League's Owners and Directors Test, unlike many of the previous approaches we have had to endure.
We will not be making any further announcements in the near future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Evening of L.U.S.T.

The Scratching Shed 21/6/12
...which was not as R-rated as you might imagine, though Gary Cooper’s eyes did light up momentarily at the mention of custard. The Leeds United Supporters Trust held another meeting on Wednesday evening and ended up discussing (predictably) mostly the proposed takeover of Leeds United. LUST revealed some basic information about the interested parties they have spoken to, explained their decision to agree to pass on players’ disillusionment to the fans, and updated members on the various legal proceedings currently leeching Leeds United of money.

Brick Walls
LUST were asked when the last time they had had meaningful contact with the Club’s board was. Gary Cooper responded:
The last meaningful contact I had with the Leeds United Board was when Mr Harvey kindly told us he would only sell tickets to whoever he wished to. Other than that, was probably Mr. Bates’ last diatribe about the club where he called us “rude” “ignorant” and… “a camel”. I’m not sure what he meant by that – many people ask! In terms of meaningful, the last meaningful contact I had with Ken Bates was when he called me “an enemy of Leeds United”.
We had an interesting conversation with Peter Lorimer before the last game of the season outside the Pavilion. Mr. Lorimer made an offer to us that he would like to come to one of our meetings and address us all. We wrote to Mr. Lorimer and thanked him very much for his kind offer and openly invited him to any meeting at a time and date of his choosing … he hasn’t answered.
The Trust then went on to mention a conversation with stewards after their “end of season party” in the newly refurbished East Stand:
The debrief the stewards got before the event was that we were all going to be classic hooligans. …We went there made some noise and blew balloons.
One audience member mentioned that the stewards had confiscated one of the Trust’s balloons off his eight year-old son. Presumably, this is not then one of the regular children to phone club-owned Yorkshire Radio and proclaim what a nice man Mr. Bates is!

Gary Cooper gave his personal opinion on Ken Bates’ motives as chairman of Leeds:
I don’t think Ken Bates is in it for the glory of Leeds United. I think Ken Bates is in it for the glory of Ken Bates. And fair play to him – that doesn’t make him right, wrong, left, right up or upside-down.
LUST also drew upon the research of some of their more financially-minded volunteers to echo our own conclusions on the accounts:
You don’t need to be [an expert]: it’s quite clear to see that there are cashflow issues at Leeds United.
A lot of businesses in administration are profitable businesses. One of the biggest killers of businesses are cash-flow problems
The Trust also mentioned the apparent necessity of a £975,000 loan from Outro Limited (connected to Mr. Bates) to the club to avoid deficit in the 2010-11 accounts. This was in a season the club finished 7th, held outstanding talent very cheaply on the books (Max Gradel, Jonny Howson, Robert Snodgrass, Bradley Johnson, Kasper Schmeichel), and the year before the club embarked on a development project costing over £5m. An audience member noted the coincidence of the sale of Kasper Schmeichel and Max Gradel in the summer after the accounts.
The Supporters Trust then mentioned the loss-making companies owned by Leeds United, for example Yorkshire Radio and the Pavilion. LUST concluded:
The football side of the business is a cash-cow that is funding numerous loss-making businesses.
The football side is funding failing businesses.
LUST’s chair said:
I came across an obscure channel on Sky recently, called Leeds TV. What struck me about the channel representing this city, was the person representing Leeds United was one Jonny Howson. I think that says it all, really.
[Regarding the recent approach from disillusioned players] We wondered should we give the players a voice the same way as the fans, the council and West Yorkshire Police. Should we give them a voice and be criticised? ‘greedy bloody players, stupid bloody board’. We made a judgement call and we stick by it.
We would like to back up the current players with former players and staff … who do not have the worry of a financial penalty.
We felt with potential owners that we would have to show them our mission statement. But a lot of people from a long way away had already read our mission statement, were impressed, and approached us.
The mission statement is a joint piece of work from people who wear that badge on their shirt, on their hearts, etc.
LUST concluded that the mission statement is at the heart of the Supporters Trust and so it must reflect the community which put the statement together. They act according to the wishes expressed by members and will continue to do so.

The Supporters Trust said that they had spoken to three separate parties regarding investment or takeover of Leeds. They mentioned that there had been firm offers as far back as 2007, which had all been rebuffed by Bates. There were two approaches in February and March of this year by at least two different groups. There are still numerous groups interested in buying Leeds, and all the parties LUST have spoken to appear to be in a better position than Mr. Bates to take the club forward. All the parties LUST spoke to see the repurchase of Elland Road as a priority.
LUST then announced:
When Mr Bates told us there was no money in Yorkshire that wasn’t exactly true. We’ve had some very prominent businessmen and interested parties come from both Leeds and the wider Yorkshire area, as well as groups from all over the world. It’s a best kept secret that Leeds United is a very attractive club and a very attractive brand to buyers.
The one thing each and every person we’ve spoken to has said is that they want to buy Leeds United. They have no interest in working with Mr Bates – that is no criticism of him. But no-one wants to invest money in him. They want invest money to buy the club. Period.
The increasing majority [of LUST members] have said they want to see a change at the top.
The Litigation Game
LUST confirmed that they understand that there are two more lawsuits to come. Melvyn Levi will take Bates and Leeds to court again, while Bates (on behalf of Leeds) has decided he wants to sue West Yorkshire Police. The Weston case in Jersey, which “Ken Bates told us was a wonderful victory” is stayed and has been transferred to London High Court, from Jersey. LUST believe Mr Bates probably didn’t want that to happen because different types of evidence can now be used which will probably be more helpful to Weston. These two actions probably spell more financial bad news for Leeds, especially given even successful court cases have still cost Leeds very significant sums in the past.
Meanwhile, The Supporters Trust have had a reply from Ofcom regarding Mr. Bates’ leaking of personal information of LUST board members on the radio (which has parallels to his behaviour against Mr. Levi). Ofcom has made a preliminary decision but LUST are not allowed to disclose the specifics.
Companies House has also taken issue with Leeds’ accounts following ‘remarkable errors’. They have asked Leeds to re-submit the accounts. A set of accurate accounts acknowledged by Companies House will help any due diligence.

The New Regime - Outro 2011 (June 2011 accounts)

1. As at 30 June 2011 Outro had invested 500k into LUFC and temporarily loaned them a further 975k of their cash (which has now been repaid) however, they have also taken 4.6m of cash from LUFC and loaned it to various other related companies (Leeds United Media getting 255k, Leeds United Pavilion getting 2.7m, and whilst it cannot be verified, YR probably got the remaining 1.6m). LUFC do owe 255k to their relations so, in total we can see that Outro has taken a net 3.8m cash out of Leeds United Football Club Limited.

2. Since Admin (4 accounting years ago), the club has received 12.6m in cash from the sale of players and reinvested 7.2m back into the playing squad, they are also currently due a further net amount of 419k in cash (from player trading). This will be a net cash gain of 5.8m.

3. Conversely, since admin, 9.6m has been spent on buildings and improvements, with a further 6.5m earmarked to be spent in the near future (so a total 16.1m). Given the size of this investment it is little wonder that the club needed the cash injections from a loan of 5m and the 3.2m from the preference share award.

4. There remains a working capital shortfall at the club that continues to be funded by utilising future season ticket sales income but, with part of this money now being promised elsewhere for the next two seasons (due to the terms of the 5m loan) there is going to be less of the 8m cash to go round.

5. Over the 4 years, the Football Club has made an Operating Profit (excluding Player trading) of 737k on a turnover of 107m. Sadly, this year we cannot tell how much was added to the 1.47m already paid to R M Taylor as he stepped down from the board. But we are told Shaun and Yvonne have taken combined salaries of 299k.

6. Unfortunately other LCH group companies haven't fared as well as LUFC during the year with the Pavilion losing 197k, LU Media losing 2k (both of which were included in LUFC last year), YR losing 86k and LCH itself losing 157k. This takes the combined losses for the other Group companies over the 4 year period (excluding those that might have occured whilst being part of LUFC) to 4.2m.

Other key stats for those that are interested:

Wages to T/O 46% (v 45% last year) [alternatively, by adding Soc Security, could be quoted as Staff cost to T/O at 51% (v 50% last year)]

Wages totalled 14.9m (v 12.4m last year)

Rent totalled 1.8m (up 4% on last year)

Meeting held at The Magic Sponge, 7.30pm, 20th June 2012.

Present for the Trust, Gary Cooper, Aidan Booth, Patrick Bushell, Lee Hicken, Ashley Tabony, Paul Keat and Adam Carruthers.

1. Meeting commenced at 19.35 with an update from Trust Chairman:

Firstly a letter ref the accounts had been sent to Baker Tilly & Companies House. Baker Tilly have politely declined our invitation to discuss the accounts; however Companies House say the matter does warrant investigation due to basic errors, amongst other things.

The Levi court case - noted similarities with the dispute over alleged DPA breach. Preliminary decision made, but cannot divulge outcome. Awaiting developments.

Ongoing takeover, investment talks. Back in February, Mr Bates asked us to put our money where our mouth was, nobody could envisage what happened. People did come forward. Local business men and groups who represented considerable wealth.

We have to be very careful what we can say, as we cannot jeopardise ongoing talks. We must not become a spanner in the works, and we need to protect confidentiality.

Lots of other work going on too but this obviously overshadows other matters.

2. Investment/takeover:

Leeds United are a very attractive proposition, nobody we have spoken to wants to invest. They want to buy the club, not just make an investment in the current board.

Our members have also told us that they want change at Leeds United.

Players whose representatives we have spoken to share our vision. They want the board to show ambition.

Question about how many groups interested. Trust: we know there people interested, we have spoken to 3 groups. We don't know how many are talking to the club right now.

When is it going to happen? Trust: not a simple process, we do need to ask the club, we can just speculate. We can guess at the end of month, first week in July is the "gut feeling" based on media etc. Issue is possibly the complicated financial structure of the club.

The Trust admitted that it was amazing just how quickly the club admitted they are in talks.

The length of time also points to a takeover not investment .

The Trust Chairman also appealed to the club to tell fans what is going on.

The meeting was then opened up to questions from the floor

3. Questions from the floor:

Question - Would the Trust accept Ken Bates staying on. Trust: it's not up to us, we have to accept whatever happens and play with the cards we are dealt.

Question - is the money for new players' contracts from the new owners or not? Trust :We don't know this.

Question - Does the current transfer policy reflect the takeover situation? It would be a remarkable coincidence if not. Trust: Something so far down road, if the club does pay a fee, it would point to the fact we are very close.

Question about End of Season party and alleged heavy handed treatment by stewards. Trust Chair: Amanda Jacks has written full report and we are going to have a meeting with FSF and WYP. Will use official bodies to take next steps. The Trust has spoken at length with someone at the club, they mentioned that we were refered to as fanatical hooligans in the pre-match briefing who were hell-bent on trouble. It is noted that the WYP were superb and we would like to extend out thanks once again for their co-operation.

Question about feedback from previous attempts. Trust: moving goalposts, high prices etc. Why now? Possibly the financial situation of the club might have changed? Cash flow appears an issue from our Summer transfer dealings.

Question about ongoing court case. What is the effect on takeover? Trust Chair: we have been approached by Melvyn Levi and Weston. Previous ruling in Jersey court, Bates claimed it was a victory to the tune of £190k. We have already spent a rumoured £1.5m, now it is to be taken to High Court in London. We don't think the club will not want this as the disclosure is different in London from Jersey? Possibly more bad news around the corner for the club?

Question - Assuming takeover did not happen, is there any grounds for Fit and Proper Person challenge? Trust: Levi is looking into that, we are not involved in this.

Question from Twitter - When was the last meaningful contact with club? Trust: It was with Shaun Harvey over ticket block. Last was the phone call from Bates saying: Trust Chair was told that he was an enemy of Leeds United. It is not for want of trying. We did have a club liaison officer, who tried really hard, but ignored by the club. Trust Board met Mr Harvey after they joined board and said become a RMC and we will talk to you. A Trust member spoke to Lorimer after last game of the season and said he'd like to come and talk to us. We wrote to him and invited him, he has not answered yet.

Question ref players contacting us. With hindsight was it a good decision and any ramifications? Trust: They do care and share our anxiety about the future. They wanted us to come forward, we had an option, we made judgement call and said they deserve their voice. From our members it was a 50:50 split, we don't regret doing it.

Question would we be interested in talking to Jonny Howson. Offer made. Trust: We are working on something similar.

Question about weekly show on BBC Radio Leeds. Trust: It is a possibility. We do work with The Square Ball and other bodies. Radio Leeds should be putting on something, as we don't have anything else of note for fans. YR hardly represents an impartial voice for fans.

Question about RMCs coming out of club? Trust: We cannot say too much about RMCs as we are working on a couple of things with RMCs. This is part of Fans United movement.

Question about Trust dialogue with any new owners. What is our policy and would we be working on things that are important for the club? Have we got something ready? Trust: We are ready. Our approach is cast in stone. We have experience of working with investors so hope that would continue. We have the vision statement and lots of work behind it. The people we have spoken to are keen to speak to the fans, and recognise the value of Trust. In fact we are constantly surprised how many people from far afield have seen the vision.

The feedback we have had is that everyone who has seen it has bought into the vision.

Question - will people buy into the vision? Trust: The power of it was from the fans. The players have seen it too.

Question - What is our plan B? What if takeover doesn't happen? Trust: You make a good point. There are a couple of plan Bs, we know there at least 2 which are watching with great interest, so not stuck with current board. If it does fail, we need to work with what we have. But there will be a huge groundswell. New information will come to light, will cause uproar and cause fans to demand change. We hope it does not come to a Plan B situation.

The fans would take it out of our hands. We would have to ask members & fans, and take their lead.

Question ref. finances, after 4 years of decent profits, why does there appear to be a cash flow issue? Trust: The Trust, in absence of their financial experts, explained that the club is expensive to run and looking at the recent accounts there are fairly high "additional expenses", high capital project expenditure, falling crowds, falling ST numbers, all of these aspects might affect cash flow. Then there are other issues such as the preferential shares, and the mortgaging of season ticket revenue etc. all of which could point to a poor cash position. The board stressed that there is no suggestion of any wrong doing by the current board as the accounts are audited and everything mentioned above is legal. The complexity of accounting practices make it difficult to understand the true cash position. The board also mentioned the other loss making businesses, and the football side apparently funding them, but again it is difficult to tell with any real certainty whether this has an effect.

Question - do we have any reason to believe talks in jeopardy? Trust - no reason at all.

Question - if it goes wrong where does it leave Ken Bates? Trust: There are plan Bs, as mentioned above.

Question - how come we have cash flow problems when we are spending all the money on building projects? Trust: the two things are linked. If we are spending large sums on capital projects, that might mean less to spend on the football side, but this is just conjecture.

Question from Twitter, What are the scale of ambitions of potential possible bidders? Trust: all we have spoken to share the vision, thay have expressed the wish to invest funds to comfortably get us up into PL and do well there. Definitely significant funding has been mentioned.

Question - are we still talking to players Trust: yes, and question about buying ER & TA, yes that is in plans.

Question about qualifying the ambition of potential buyers Trust: we have not seen their books, but by reputation they are big players, who fans will have heard of. The Trust Chairman has sat in offices with reputable people, people we have spoken to have previously expressed an interest in Leeds and gone quite far down the road. If you are a buyer, you know the club cannot be paralysed until the start of the season or you jeopardise success on pitch. Need to move this forward quickly to give us a chance, but just speculation of who is talking to Leeds at the moment.

Question about Warnock going to Monaco to hand notice in, came out on LOL about positive discussions. Trust: it sounded positive.

Question about cash flow position - The club is profitable, if the club is a "cash cow", why shouldn't it continue like this? Do we have a willing seller? Trust: We have no proof that the club is a "cash cow". on the question is he a willing seller? This is not known either.

Question about free Trust membership Trust: Trust Board are going to discuss this tonight. We have trialled this season, but our income has doubled, due to shareholding going up to 500+, with several life time members and thanks to donation. It has been a success and we would like to continue, it we do need your help. Richard C mentioned T-shirts, all profit goes to Trust.

4. Any Other Business

Possible game at Magic Sponge against ex players, we will update on this.

Leeds fans United is ongoing.

Trust Chair extended thanks to Aidan. His commitment and contribution to Trust is incredible, public thanks extended. Seconded by board & supported from the floor.

Second event is the the stewarding meeting, Gary is hoping to nail Amanda down to a date for this.

From the floor thanks to Gary and the board. Gary thanked all participants.

Date of next meeting to be confirmed.

Meeting closed at 21.05

5. Post Meeting Input

In terms of why we have no cash despite profits - Cash and Profit are 2 very different things, in the very long term they have a close relationship but, in the short/medium term items like building works have to be paid for up front with cash. However, in the case of LUFC the building work can be spread over a period of up to 22 years in the profit & loss account. Similarly when we exited Admin there were debts that had to be settled (with cash) amounting to c.£7m, but, these debts are allowed to be spread over 50 years in the profit & loss account. There is also the tax issue, where £2m of old tax losses (from Old co.) were added back to the accounts to create a profit this year.

On the related topic of why we need funding (i.e. why don't we have any cash), simply put, we know that the following cash has come into the business since Admin - £0.5m from FSF to buy the club + £5.8m net cash in from Player Trading + £5m loan (against ST money) + £3.2m cash for the preference shares. This adds up to £14.5m. We also know the following cash has gone out of the business, £4.4m (net) loaned to sister companies + £16.1m on capital projects, so a total of £20.5m. Therefore on this basis there is a cash shortage of £6m. Of course cash is generated by the football activities (gate receipts etc) which is why we don't have a -£6m figure in the bank but, this helps to explain why there is a problem.

Paul Green joins up with United...
Derby County midfielder Paul Green has agreed a deal to join Leeds United on July 1.
The 29-year-old has agreed a two-year contract and will formally join up with the club at the start of next month.
Paul follows Adam Drury and Jason Pearce into the club as Neil Warnock's summer recruitment drive steps up a gear and becomes the club's third signing of the summer.
The Republic of Ireland international, Paul came on as a substitute in the Euro 2012 game against Spain last week, has a wealth of experience and joins the club after making over 140 appearances for Derby County following a four-year stint at Pride Park.
Ironically, the Pontefract-born midfielder joined Derby from Doncaster, his final appearance for Rovers coming in the 2008 League One Play-Off final against Leeds at Wembley.
United boss Neil Warnock said: "Paul is another player I've been after for a long time, but obviously he was called up by Ireland for the European Championships so we've had to be a bit patient.
"I've seen him grow from his days at Doncaster and I'm delighted to have him here.
"I've always thought that he is a player who can create goals as well as score them, and he has just the type of attitude we need at Elland Road."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Norwich City defender Adam Drury has agreed a deal to join Leeds United from July 1.
The experienced left back will join on a two-year contract next month after agreeing a deal to become Neil Warnock's second signing of the summer.
The 33-year-old, who was rewarded with a testimonial match against Celtic at Carrow Road in May, arrives with a wealth of experience, having made over 350 appearances for the Canaries.
Adam was a member of the Norwich side which won back to back promotions from League One to the Premier League and he made 16 appearances last term, the majority coming in the second half of the campaign.
Adam is out of contract at Norwich this summer and the United manager says he is delighted to welcome the left back to his squad.
"From July 1 he will be our player and he's a player I've looked at for many years," said the boss.
"He's a very good professional. I think he's a good defender, he's quick and I thought we needed a bit of experience in certain places, and that desire and will. And with Adam you know what you're going to get.
"I'm delighted to have him. He's got the experience we need. He played 16 times for Norwich last season and he's better than a lot of full backs in the Premier League.
"He's a good lad. That's half the battle as well. It gives us a good mix because we've got young Pearcey on that side as well so we can put that to bed now and move on to a different area.
"When you speak to him he's full of enthusiasm and when you get released from a club you want to prove people wrong.
"There's a few times I've wanted to kick him over the years! We've always had a rapport when my teams have played against him and I think he knows I've always respected him.
"I tried to sign him at Sheffield United a few years back and it wasn't to be, but I've kept my eye on him ever since. He'll love it here. You can't play with fear at Elland Road and I think Adam will enjoy that part."
Adam joins former Portsmouth captain Jason Pearce in becoming the club's second summer recruit.

Let’s crack on - Warnock

Yorkshire Evening Post 19/6/12
By Leon Wobschall
Neil Warnock was back at his desk at Leeds United today and has reiterated his desire to press ahead with his recruitment programme – with the start of pre-season just over a fortnight away.
The United chief flew into Yorkshire from the south-west yesterday with a stack of business to attend to between now and the big kick-off, with United having signed just one player, Jason Pearce, since the end of last term.
Warnock is keen to get moving on the transfer front and is working this week on getting a couple of potential Bosman signings finalised.
He also wants to bring in at least four signings who would cost fees to bolster his squad ahead of the new Championship campaign and is keen to make progress on that front.
Warnock said: “I’m going along working as hard as I can now and we know we need players. I think the club know I need help and they are trying to do it. Only time will tell.
“I know I’ve got to do a lot of work between now and the start of the season to recruit the right players. Hopefully, we can get moving along in the next couple of weeks.”
Meanwhile, Warnock admits he is relishing United’s baptism of fire at Elland Road at the start of the 2012-13 campaign, which begins with an encounter with visiting Wolverhampton Wanderers on August 18.
United also face another relegated club in Blackburn Rovers, as well as White Rose rivals Hull and Nottingham Forest – who won 7-3 in Leeds in March – in the first five weeks of the campaign on home soil.
Leeds slumped to a club-record 11 home league defeats last season with home rule one of Warnock’s major priorities next season.
He said: “Looking at our fixtures makes you realise how difficult a league this is. “But it’s a great opening fixture against Wolves. I’d rather be playing them at home than Peterborough and that’s no disrespect to Peterborough.
“Elland Road has got to become a fortress if we have got any chance (next season). We’ve got to set our stall out; that’s why it’s important that we do our business in the next few weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s hope we can get things done.”
United have confirmed that their Capital One Cup first-round home tie with League One newcomers Shrewsbury Town will take place on Saturday, August 11 with a 3pm kick-off – much to Warnock’s satisfaction.
The Football League kicks off the following weekend.
Warnock added: “I’m ever so pleased we’re playing on the Saturday.
“We’ve a full week before the Wolves game and we’ll play our strongest team.
“We had been looking at playing a Premier League team that weekend, but I think a competitive game is just what we need before the league season starts.
“We can have a good look at things in a competitive game and iron out any faults for the Wolves game.”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Silence is sometimes golden too

Yorkshire Evening Post 15/6/12
By Gary Walker
First, the good news. Neil Warnock is back from holiday and, despite plenty of rumours and counter rumours to the contrary, is still manager of Leeds United. And that fact, set alongside the Elland Road club’s confirmation that “talks were taking place regarding investment for the long-term future”, may just offer Whites fans the greatest encouragement yet that this summer could herald a brave new dawn for their club.
The silence, as I said last week, since United’s May 29 announcement may well have been deafening but the eternal optimist in me, bolstered it must be said by Warnock’s actions, gets the feeling that it may yet prove to be golden.
Why hasn’t the club put out a follow-up statement? Is it a Canadian, American or Kuwaiti takeover? Or is it, as I suggested last week, just a multi-million pound stadium rights naming? Another week and the same questions keep pouring in from Leeds supporters anxious for some news, any news about what’s going on, or not, at LS11.
But, just for once, no news really could mean good news. All major financial deals tend to include confidentiality agreements so the lack of information doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is happening, or that talks have broken down, or that there is an impasse.
Maybe, just maybe, the painstaking background work – due diligence as the business types call it – is running its natural course and heading towards a not-too-distant conclusion.
Granted, this is Leeds United and, yes, things tend not to run so smoothly where any football club is concerned but, hey, there’s a first time for everything, right? Okay, if it makes you feel better keep your fingers crossed just in case then but, more importantly, keep the faith.
The long game – and I don’t mean route one football – is the hardest to bear, but if Warnock is prepared to wait and bide his time when it comes to revamping the squad he inherited then he must have very good reason for doing so.
He must, I would imagine, have been kept informed as regards any potential investment – particularly as his squad plans appear to depend on it – so if he is staying put and fighting on that is surely a hugely positive indicator for fans.
The trouble with long drawn out silences is that speculation or, worse still, conspiracy theories are often used to fill the void. That is, after all, human nature – particularly in this Twitter-fuelled age.
How else can you explain an email received by a colleague on Wednesday which insisted that a car, boasting Kuwaiti number plates, was seen at Elland Road, a rumour later regurgitated, hundreds of times over no doubt, in desperate tweets by supporters eager for any crumb of comfort.
No, this really is wait and see time for all Whites followers and hopefully, a little like a Paul Daniels magic trick, all will be revealed very soon. And if all is not as it seemed then that will be the moment to respond rather than react to what is, at the moment, pure speculation.
At least Monday’s announcement of the 2012-13 fixture list will offer a moment’s respite. It will also, no doubt, see the speculation reach wild, fevered levels with the start of pre-season training just a fortnight away. That’s life!

New EPL TV Deal Adds Urgency To Leeds United Takeover Talks

The Scratching Shed 15/6/12
The already giant financial gulf between Premier League and The Championship will get a whole lot bigger when the new Premier League TV deal comes into effect at the start of the 2013-14 season.
With most analysts predicting a levelling-off of the fee paid for English football, the 70% price rise for domestic broadcasting rights came as a huge shock to many. Under the current deal, Sky and ESPN pay £1.8bn to show Premier League football from 2010-2013. This time around, Sky & BT will pay an incredible £3bn to show three seasons of top flight action.
The FA Premier League chairman Richard Scudamore put this into context as he revealed an extra £14m per season would be the absolute minimum each club could expect to receive.
All this, and the sale of overseas rights is still to come. Sporting Intelligence predicts that the overall figure could reach £6bn and that the winners of the Premier League in 2013-14 could be looking at a windfall of £120m – almost double what Manchester City received for their heroics last season.
The implications for teams outside the EPL could be devastating. As relegated clubs come down with even more cash and presumably higher parachute payments, very few teams will be able to compete with their financial clout.
It’s easy to make an argument for redistribution of funds down the leagues, but English football sold it’s soul a long time ago. It’s strictly business nowadays, and the reality of business is that some position themselves to be in the right place at the right time, whilst others get caught napping and miss the gravy-train. The vast sums of money being thrown at English football are a direct result of it’s popularity, but that popularity – particularly overseas – doesn’t extend too far beyond the top flight. As interest in the Premier League continues to grow and the money involved soars, the rest of the football pyramid can do nothing to reverse the trend. The gap will only widen.
For Leeds United’s ongoing takeover/investment talks, this could have some huge implications. Businesses aren’t sold purely on assets and current turnover, the potential for growth and higher revenue is also considered. With even more money now available for achieving promotion, the asking price of the club could rise and this would undoubtedly cause further delays.
However, there could also be a positive angle. The mega-money TV deal is bound to catch the attention of investors across the globe, who will be looking at ways to secure their slice of the pie. There is some evidence to support an increase in investor interest already with Forbes predicting an even larger windfall for Manchester United when the Glazer’s float part of the club on the US Stock Exchange. It’s only natural that the more money a business can generate, the more people will be interested in purchasing it. Compared to what it would cost to buy most Premier League clubs, Leeds United are ideally positioned to be bought-out “on the cheap.” After a few million pounds injected to build a promotion winning squad, the investors would be sat on an absolute gold mine.
But timing is everything. If Leeds United get left behind, the financial gulf will widen and what could have been a relatively low-risk, low-outlay investment will become a much costlier situation as the Championship starts to fill up with relegated teams benefiting from their Premier League pay-day and ongoing parachute payments. Leeds United need to act fast.

Will Warnock leave Leeds this week? He moves to quell rumours

Yorkshire Post 15/6/12
LEEDS manager Neil Warnock today brushed aside fresh speculation on his future at Elland Road.
Warnock moved to squash rumours that were circulating yesterday morning that he would leave the club this week.
But his plans to dramatically shake up United’s squad are effectively on hold as discussions take place on possible injections of funding.
Warnock is thought to be frustrated after failing to transfer in more players. so far his haul totals only Jason Pearce in early May.
He flew out to Monaco for lengthy discussions with Leeds chairman Ken Bates on Wednesday.
Warnock said: “The main thing I’m concentrating on is the squad and what we can do to strengthen.
“I know what I’m looking to achieve before the start of the season to give us the opportunity of finishing as high as we can and that process is ongoing.”
Leeds are in the market for QPR goalkeeper Paddy Kenny, Derby’s Paul Green and Leicester full-back Lee Peltier.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Whites hope to bag Leicester City star

Yorkshire Evening Post 13/6/12
By Leon Wobschall
Leeds United are in pole position to sign Leicester City defender Lee Peltier – and could finalise the deal later this month.
Bringing in a new right-back is a big priority for United boss Neil Warnock, after missing out on the signing of Joel Ward, who joined Championship rivals Crystal Palace for £400,000 at the end of May.
Despite being a regular for City last term and playing in all but six of their Championship fixtures, the East Midlands outfit are willing to sell Peltier, who only joined the club for £750,000 from Huddersfield Town last summer.
Sources close to the player suggest a deal could even be completed as early as next week, although it is more likely that United won’t complete any move until towards the end of this month.
Peltier’s former club Huddersfield have also been linked with a move, but it appears Leeds are winning the race to sign him.
Earlier this month, it was reported that Leicester would be seeking to recoup £500,000 for Peltier, 25, although it’s understood that a deal might now be done for as little as £300,000.
Peltier made 47 appearances in total for the Foxes last season, but his place is seriously under threat with manager Nigel Pearson keen on raiding former club Hull City to bring in Tigers full-back Liam Rosenior.
United’s only recognised right-back, Paul Connolly, was transfer-listed at the end of last season.
Meanwhile, fans will discover who United will face in the first round of the newly-named Capital One Cup tomorrow morning at 9.30pm. Capital One are the new sponsors of the Football League Cup.
The first round of the competition marks the start of the season for Football League clubs with the ties due to take place during the midweek commencing Monday, August 13 ahead of the opening league games of the season on Saturday, August 18.
All npower league clubs will take part in round one with the exception of the two highest placed teams in last season’s tables - Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers. The league fixture list will be released on Monday morning (June 18) at 9am.

Aidy White set for final talks

Yorkshire Evening Post 11/6/12
By Phil Hay
Aidan White will request a final meeting with Leeds United in a bid to clarify his future as interest in the winger’s signature grows.
Representatives of the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international are to push for a decision on White’s fate with his contract at Elland Road due to expire in less than three weeks’ time.
Negotiations over a new deal have reached an impasse, with White unlikely to accept Leeds’ most recent proposal and United reluctant to improve their offer to him, and he is poised to push ahead with the search for a new club.
German side Werder Bremen and French outfit Lille were strongly linked with White last week and the YEP understands that other overseas clubs have expressed an interest in him.
Leeds will receive compensation if White leaves Elland Road but clubs outside England have the security of incurring a fixed sum decided by a clear FIFA formula.
English sides would be forced to agree compensation through a private deal with Leeds or face the unpredictability of a fee decided by tribunal. White’s value is widely expected to be in excess of £500,000 following his recent involvement with the Republic of Ireland’s Under-21 squad.
Three Premier League clubs are understood to have made inquiries about United’s 20-year-old academy product, on top of one from the Scottish Premier League.
Leeds boss Neil Warnock has indicated that White is likely to move on, saying: “I don’t expect he’ll accept the offer from what I was told by his advisors.”

Saturday, June 09, 2012

L.U.S.T. Update: Frustrated Players Back Our Vision

LUST 8/6/12
Leeds United Supporters' Trust have been speaking with sources close to the players at Leeds United, as frustration grows among fans over the lack of progress on transfers, the current takeover talks, and yesterday's embarrassing court case. They have told us that the players are as disillusioned and disheartened as the fans at the moment, feeling undervalued by the club and totally frustrated by the lack of ambition Leeds United are showing. Many players have read and fully agree with the aims of L.U.S.T.'s Vision Statement, and want us to get their views out on their behalf.
Our sources say that players fear if they speak their minds openly and publicly at the moment they could be left to rot in the reserves, or be sold to clubs they have no interest in playing for. They are anxious, however, that Leeds supporters should know how they are feeling.
We've been told that the players are passionate and committed about bringing success to Leeds United. They desperately want to be part of a Leeds United side that wins promotion to the Premier League. With the current situation at the club, though, they cannot see how that will be possible. They understand that without an increase in the playing budget at Leeds, the club will need to sell before it can buy, but the only players the club can sell are the ones who want to stay and fight for promotion with Leeds United. This has put them in a catch-22 situation, not knowing whether they will still be at Leeds next season, or what sort of team they will be playing in.
While they want to stay at Elland Road, the players feel completely undervalued by the club. We understand that some of the contract offers the club has been making have offered a miserly increase in weekly wages, offers which do not come close to what players could earn elsewhere. They feel that they are nothing more than commodities to Leeds United, and they have compared their disillusionment to that felt by the fans in recent seasons. Their view is that the club does not care about either the players' or the fans' opinions enough to share their ambition.
A number of players have grown so frustrated by the situation at Leeds United that they are on the verge of giving up, walking away and accepting offers to play elsewhere. Our sources stressed to us that these players do not want to leave Leeds.
The players want the fans to know loud and clear that they share our passion for Leeds, and that they have a burning ambition to get our club to the Premier League. Equally, they share in the frustration and pain the fans have been feeling. Players who want to play for Leeds United fear that they will be forced out of the club this summer, and have to go and play elsewhere for the good of their careers and personal futures. They are frustrated that the people in charge of the club do not share the ambition of the players, and the fans, to make Leeds United a great football club again.
One of the main aims of the Leeds United Supporters' Trust Vision Statement is to reunite the club and its fans. We want to see harmony between the fans, the players, and the management of Leeds United, so we can build a successful team together. We are pleased to learn that there are players at Leeds United who fully endorse that vision, and who are desperate to help us make it a reality.

‘Chilling lack of concern’: The Bates v Levi Judgement

The Square Ball 7/6/12
As soon as we heard the appeal on Yorkshire Radio for fans to contact the club if they knew the whereabouts of Melvyn Levi, we knew we were heading for trouble. Ken Bates had already lost a libel case to Levi, costing £50,000 in damages and an estimated £1.5million in costs. It was no surprise that the ‘Levi-watch’ bulletin – which, it has been revealed in the judgement, Yorkshire Radio considered broadcasting along with the Crimewatch theme – along with comments in Ken’s programme notes, ended up with a court case against Bates, Leeds United and Yorkshire Radio for harassment of Melvyn Levi and his wife, Carole.
It was no real surprise, either, that Ken Bates substantially lost the case. His Honour Judge Gosnell has ruled that Bates, LUFC, and Yorkshire Radio’s actions did constitute harassment of Melvyn Levi but not of Carole Levi. The judge ruled that Mrs Levi, while clearly affected by the harassment of her husband, was not its target.
They were targeted at Melvyn Levi, and were calculated in an objective sense to cause alarm or distress; I find them to be oppressive and unacceptable when viewed objectively; I find them to be more than unattractive and boorish and are serious enough to sustain criminal liability in the event of breach. The judge also found that Ken Bates, “lack of concern, particularly as he must have read the medical evidence on both Levis was chilling.”
The damages awarded are £10,000, and a two year injunction preventing Bates from harassing Melvyn Levi further; the judge has also ruled that Bates, LUFC and Yorkshire Radio must pay their own court costs, plus 30% of the Levis’ costs. Where this money will be found is an open question, but as Shaun Harvey did confirm in his evidence that “[the club] are spending a fortune on legal fees, yes,” we must fear that Leeds United’s club funds will ultimately be used to foot this bill.
The full, forty-page judgement can be downloaded here in pdf format. We think several details are worth bringing to the attention of Leeds fans and are publishing them below. They particularly highlight the use of the club’s matchday programme and the club’s in-house radio station in the case. These two media outlets are often cited by Ken Bates as important source of income for Leeds United, but this judgement shows instead that both have been used in a course of harassment which has resulted in an unsavoury court case and hefty legal bills.
When asked who had told him about the Claimants dining in Leeds on the 21st December Shaun Harvey sought permission to avoid answering the question. I thought this somewhat odd as the information was relied on by him. He did give the name of his contact Mr Michaelson but it then transpired that Mr Michaelson had not seen the Claimants; someone else had and then told Mr Michaelson. It became clear that this second hand hearsay did not extend to exactly which restaurant they had been at and what time. Mr Harvey had the good grace to accept that the Claimants had not been in Leeds on 21st December although he did appear embarrassed by the admission.
Shaun Harvey … confirmed that Yorkshire Radio has about 93,000 listeners per week with 10,000 additional listeners tuning in for match commentary.
Shaun Harvey was shown an email he had received from the Sports Correspondent of Yorkshire Radio suggesting that perhaps the “Crimewatch Theme” could be used in the radio broadcast. Again he seemed embarrassed and said it had not in fact been used. His embarrassment increased during the course of the trial when he had to serve a second statement to confirm that the radio message had been broadcast two or three times on 22nd December 2010 again on 23rd December 2010 and twice on 26th December 2010.
Mr Harvey confirmed that there have never been any discussions about what effect the programme notes are likely to have had on the Claimants. He accepted from the medical evidence that they have in fact been made ill by the experience and with the benefit of hindsight felt they could have done more. In a telling exchange at the end of his evidence, he was asked whether he ever felt a conflict of interest could arise as Chief Executive Officer of Leeds United if Ken Bates chose to publish something which was not in Leeds United’s interests. His reply was that as Ken Bates is a 76% shareholder there could be no conflict. This of course was rather missing the point but spoke volumes as to what influence or control if any Leeds United could exercise over Ken Bates. I gained the impression that Mr Harvey was a somewhat defensive witness who was very reluctant to concede anything which was against the interests of the Defendants. As a human being however, he had the decency to look embarrassed at some of the positions he was being forced to defend.
Ken Bates was asked whether he considered what effect these articles would have on Carole Levi particularly when she had given evidence in the libel claim how much it was upsetting her. He said when he writes the articles Carole Levi doesn’t come into his calculations at all. He said Melvyn Levi was a big boy and big enough to look after himself. I felt his lack of concern, particularly as he must have read the medical evidence on both Claimants was chilling.
It was a combative performance in the witness box with several bad tempered exchanges with leading counsel for the Claimants. At times he seemed more concerned with belittling and criticising Mr Myerson than giving convincing evidence to the court. Describing the questions as pathetic and answering “rubbish” on several occasions did nothing to advance his case.
The decision to broadcast a message, potentially to 103,000 people, to indicate that Leeds United are currently searching for the whereabouts of Melvyn Levi and to encourage people to ring in and disclose where and when they saw him was an extreme and bizarre response to this problem.
What therefore was the motive for broadcasting the message? I am prepared to accept that one of the motives was to provide information to assist in the service of Melvyn Levi with the proceedings. I am however convinced that another motive was to harass Melvyn Levi. I reach this decision firstly because the decision to broadcast the message was an entirely unreasonable decision and one which was disproportionate to the problem trying to be solved. There are also two other factors which persuades me that the mischief behind this decision was to “wind up” Melyvn Levi. Firstly, the fact that when Mr Harvey asked Mr Kirwin to broadcast the message Mr Kirwin suggested he could use the “Crimewatch theme”. If the litigation with Melvyn Levi was being treated seriously by the Defendants it seems to me unlikely that this suggestion would be made. Secondly, Ken Bates’ suggestion (which was not put into effect) that anyone providing information would win a free meal for two again suggests a less than serious attitude to the issue more in keeping with a motive to upset the butt of the joke. The fact that the message was broadcast over three days at least six times supports the fact that this was a disproportionate response.
This brings me to an important issue in relation to the case as a whole. Are Ken Bates’ programme notes a reflection of his genuinely held views of interest to the fans of Leeds United? Or are they, as the Claimant contends, a vehicle for Ken Bates’ to pursue his personal animosity against Melvyn Levi by publishing partial, inaccurate and damaging comments about Melvyn Levi under the guise of freedom of speech. Clearly the fact that in the past, three of them have been found to be defamatory in relation to Melvyn Levi is relevant. The fact that Ken Bates accepted that, other than managers and players, he had written more about Melvyn Levi than any other person is also relevant. He also accepted that he had not mentioned anyone else’s wife, son, home address or phone number.
Is the dispute with Melvyn Levi of genuine interest to the fans of Leeds United or does Ken Bates publish information embarrassing to Melvyn Levi irrespective of whether there is any genuine interest in the story? I find it difficult to accept that genuine fans have any interest in this dispute. It arose in 2004 over a disputed debt of £190,400. The dispute about the call option can be of no interest to the fans as Ken Bates succeeded in taking over the club without having to exercise it. Whilst £190,400 would seem like a lot of money to most of the fans of the club it is a very modest amount in modern day football when, even in the Championship, players are paid £20,000-£30,000 per week. When the fact that the debt was actually owed to the limited company who previously owned the club, (and was subsequently assigned by the administrator), is taken into account and the fact that the club has gone through two relegations, one promotion and an administration since then, it is hard to see how the fans would regard this issue as significant. Some support for this assessment is found in the fact that no fans appear to have either telephoned Melvyn Levi or accosted him at his home despite the invitation to do so in the programme.
I have reached the conclusion that the motivation to report matters which are derogatory about Melvyn Levi is founded in a personal grudge which Ken Bates has arising from the original business dealings in 2004. I find this is not a genuine attempt to report matters of interest to the fans of the club. Whilst I accept that the column may well contain such information, when mention is made of Melvyn Levi it is always derogatory and often inaccurate. No attempt at balance is made and when setbacks occur in the legal process which is supposedly of interest to the fans no attempt is made to report them. It is against this background that the ultimate balancing exercise must take place.
Would it be an unreasonable interference with Ken Bates’s right to freedom of expression to prevent him publishing these oppressive and unreasonable opinions? The radio broadcast and the article on 1st January 2011 are both occasions where Melvyn Levi’s right to privacy has been seriously breached without any objectively reasonable need for the information to be published at all. If Ken Bates had been prevented from publishing both these items it does not seem to me that it would have been an unreasonable interference with his right to free speech.
Standing back from the situation for a moment therefore and taking everything into account I find that radio broadcasts and article dated 1st January 2011 constitute acts of harassment. They were targeted at Melvyn Levi, and were calculated in an objective sense to cause alarm or distress; I find them to be oppressive and unacceptable when viewed objectively; I find them to be more than unattractive and boorish and are serious enough to sustain criminal liability in the event of breach. The previous articles have relevance to the issue as they provide the context to these events and go some way to explain why Melvyn Levi would in fact suffer alarm and distress and why the Defendants ought to have known that they would.

Ken Bates gets £10,000 harassment bill over feud with ex-Leeds director Melvyn Levi

Yorkshire Post 6/6/12
LEEDS United chairman Ken Bates has been ordered to pay £10,000 to ex-director Melvyn Levi who sued him for harassment. Mr Bates has also been gagged for two years from speaking about Mr Levi’s personal life.
Mr Levi and his wife Carole claimed they suffered stress as a result of announcements on the club radio station allegedly likening Mr Levi to a criminal on the run.
They also claimed comments made by Mr Bates in his match day programme notes amounted to speculation over the state of their marriage.
Mr Levi was awarded £10,000 in compensation at Leeds County Court but his wife’s claim failed.
Judge Mark Gosnell said: “Mr Levi has succeeded in his claim and has been awarded £10,000 and Mrs Levi’s claim has failed.”
The judge issued an injunction restraining Mr Bates from commenting on Mr and Mrs Levi’s private and personal life, for two years.
But the Leeds chairman is allowed to mention the on-going commercial dispute between the two, known as the “Jersey proceedings”, as well as other non-private matters.
Explaining why he was granting the injuction, the judge said: “I cannot think of a better reason than the delving into Mr Levi’s private life in what is a commercial dispute between Mr Levi and Mr Bates which I hope will be resolved by someone else on another day.”
Leeds County Court heard in April that Mr Bates had harassed Yorkshire businessman Mr Levi, who successfully sued him for libel in 2009. Mr Bates was then ordered to pay £50,000 damages to Mr Levi over allegations that he was a “shyster” who tried to blackmail the club over money.
Mr and Mrs Levi claimed comments made by Mr Bates in his matchday programme notes amounted to speculation over the state of their marriage.
Giving evidence in April, Mrs Levi suggested that the Leeds United chairman should be “locked up” for the distress he had caused.
Mr Levi claimed radio announcements asking for information on his whereabouts during a Leeds match on Boxing Day 2010 likened him to “a fugitive”.
Over that Christmas period, Mr Bates was trying to serve a writ against Mr Levi but found out from his wife that he was away until the new year.
The Leeds chairman was pursuing legal action against Mr Levi for £190,400 Mr Bates claims he and another party owed the club - the subject of the Jersey proceedings.
At an earlier hearing, Mr Bates was accused of using the club’s programme to pursue a personal vendetta and make the lives of the Levis “a misery” after he wrote an article in January last year speculating on why the couple had “split” over the festive season.
In 2009 Mr Levi sued Mr Bates for libel over articles written in the programme and the Leeds chairman was ordered to pay £50,000 damages plus costs to Mr Levi.
Mr Bates, Leeds United and Yorkshire Radio have been ordered to pay the damages, their own legal costs and 30% of the Levis’ legal costs.
It emerged during the case that the Boxing Day 2010 radio announcement was played numerous times and a similar message had been broadcast on two days in the previous week.
The announcement said: “Leeds United are currently searching for the whereabouts of Melvyn Levi to serve him some papers in relation to a High Court action in Jersey.
“Now, if you’ve seen the former Leeds United director, you’re being asked to get in touch with Yorkshire Radio and let us know where and when you saw him.”
Mr Bates’s programme notes of January 1 2011, entitled “Onwards and Upwards”, said: “As I write, we have not served Mr Levi with his writ as his wife said he was away until New Year which makes me speculate as to why they split for the festive season.
“No matter, the procedure will be processed in 2011. Watch this space for continuing exciting news of a saga which will soon challenge Coronation Street as a long-running soap.”
In his written judgment, Judge Gosnall said he was convinced Mr Bates’s comments had genuinely upset Mr Levi. He said: “I formed the view that the events of December 2010 to April 2011 were a considerable blow to the first claimant (Mr Levi).
“He described how he had become anxious before every home game, never knowing when he would be referred to in the programme.
“He said this fear abated somewhat after the libel proceedings when he thought the problem had ended.
“He said it was a shock and very upsetting to find that the problem had started again and there seemed to be no end to it.
“This was then made worse when he read the programme on January 1 2011 with its veiled reference to the state of his marriage and he again felt upset and angry about that.
“He has low mood and anxiety, constantly ruminates on why the first defendant (Mr Bates) has had such a grudge against him for so long, he has sleep disturbance, a sense of fear and is on edge.
“He says the thing he fears the most is being accosted or attacked as a result of all the things which have been said about him.”
Nobody representing Leeds United attended court.
Speaking after the judgment, Mr Levi said he estimated that Mr Bates, Leeds United or both had spent close to £4 million fighting legal battles against him.
He said: “I’m just pleased to say that my wife and myself are happy that the matter has come to a conclusion in our favour.
“I have been totally vindicated as always - this is the second time.
“If Mr Bates would kindly look after Leeds United, not keep attacking me or anybody else for that matter who has nothing to do with the club.
“I have been fighting him for six and a half years now and it’s long enough. I believe, and I’ve been through it with my lawyers, that Mr Bates or Leeds United or anybody else together have spent coming up to £4 million in trying to fight two old age pensioners and that’s what we are.
“I think it’s absolutely disgraceful. If Mr Bates would be very kind to leave me and my wife alone we would be very pleased.”
Speaking about the costs the defendants have been ordered to pay, Mr Levi said: “It’ll come no doubt out of Leeds United and the consequences of that is that players won’t be bought probably.
“I do know if Mr Bates didn’t bother with these actions there would be more money to go into buying players at the club and not have this ridiculous situation where I’m in court every two years with a row with Mr Bates.”
A statement issued by Leeds United said: “It has been our position throughout that this case could and should have been resolved without getting to court. From the outset, efforts were made by the club to settle the case without substantial costs being incurred.
“Mrs Levi’s claim for damages and an injunction failed in its entirety, whilst Mr Levi was awarded a sum of money which he had been offered months previously.
“The substantial reductions in the costs claimed by Mr Levi reflect the fact that his claim failed in a number of respects.
“Whilst the court has granted permission to appeal, the club will take time to consider its options.”