Leeds United's would-be new owner Massimo Cellino looks set to complete his takeover within 48hrs.The Italian, waiting to exchange contracts with United owners Gulf Finance House (GFH) after agreeing terms late last week over a £25m takeover deal for a 75 per cent stake.Reports that Cellino is unlikely to pass the Football League’s Owners and Directors’ Test, formerly the Fit and Proper Person’s Test appear to be wrong. Cellino, despite two previous convictions for false accounting in Italy and a reported arrest on suspicion of embezzlement in 2013, would still be able to buy Leeds with his first conviction in 1996 expunged on appeal and the second offence in 2001 considered as spent under English law – specifically the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974). That
means Cellino is under no obligation to disclose the charges and the offences should no longer be held against him in any way. It is understood Cellino’s lawyers have presented a case to the League arguing that he cannot be barred from owning Leeds due to the past offences.
The threat of proceedings following Cellino’s arrest last year on suspicion of embezzlement is also not considered a problem to him completing any purchase of Leeds with no measures preventing people taking over a club if they are under investigation or facing charges for an alleged criminal offense of dishonesty.
Under League rules, people are regarded as innocent until proven otherwise.
The League are still considering the bid from Cellino’s company Eleonora Sport Ltd before deciding whether he passes the test.
The Cagliari owner, based in Miami, does not foresee any problems regarding meeting League criteria and is quoted as saying: “I’ve had 22 years as an owner in Italy where regulations are much stricter than in England. I don’t see why this should be an issue.”
Besides awaiting approval of his purchase of United from League authorities, his other major hurdle is getting the required signatures from GFH officials to seal the takeover.
As far as Cellino is concerned, a deal was struck to purchase 75 per cent of the club last Friday with Leeds chairman and GFH shareholder Salah Nooruddin.
But the deal is still waiting to be signed off with Cellino and GFH yet to exchange contracts, prompting the rival group involving members of failed Sport Capital and Together Leeds consortiums to join forces in an attempt to hijack the Italian’s bid and secure a controlling stake in the club.
Claiming a deal was struck late last week, Cellino said: “The money was paid on Friday. Me and the Bahraini, we’re serious people.
“Between us, there is no problem. But in the middle, there is a problem, there is a lot of s*** going on.
“The Bahraini trusts me and I trust him. He could have done other deals, but chose me because I showed I can run a club.”
Meanwhile, Cellino has been frantically attempting a charm offensive after what amounted to a public relations calamity in sacking McDermott via a phone call from his lawyer Chris Farnell.
The Cagliari owner has told one national newspaper that he plans to return Leeds to their former glories.
The agriculture magnate said: “I already love this club and want to do something right for it.
“I want to get it back where it belongs, in the Premier League.”