Leeds United F.C. change of guard


49ers Enterprises purchased Leeds United Image: Elland Road, dom fellowes, CC BY 2.0

The Championship club Leeds United F.C. (UK) are on course to be under a new, North American ownership after the 49ers Enterprises agreed to a full takeover of the club on June 9th.

‘The Guardian’ stated that in buying out Andrea Radrizzani, the Chairperson of Leeds United, the United States-based 49ers, an investment arm of the National Football League (NFL) team San Francisco 49ers, will up their holding in Leeds from 44 percent to 100 percent control. Although the deal still needs to pass the English Football League’s (EFL’s) owners’ and Directors’ test, a process expected to take a number of weeks, the requirement is regarded as a formality.

The Leeds United Football Club is a professional football club based in Leeds, West Yorkshire in England (UK). The club play their home matches at the Elland Road and compete in the Championship, the second tier of the English football league system.

The 37,890-capacity Elland Road is a football stadium in Beeston, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England (UK), which has been the home of the Championship club Leeds United F.C. since the club’s formation in 1919. The stadium is the 14th largest football stadium in England.

The 49ers Enterprises is the investment arm of the NFL franchise San Francisco 49ers and its Chairman is Paraag Marathe, who has been Vice-Chairman of Leeds since 2021.

Andrea Radrizzani is an Italian businessman and owner of the Serie B club Unione Calcio Sampdoria (Italy). Radrizzani is also the Chairman and Founder of the sports broadcasting group Eleven Sports.

Preston (UK)-based the English Football League (EFL) is a league of professional football clubs from England and Wales (UK). Founded in 1888 as the Football League, the league is the oldest such competition in the world.

‘The Guardian’ further stated that the reason it is likely to take most of the Summer for the EFL to grant its official blessing is that the 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 the Italian entrepreneur Massimo Cellino for £45m.

With Radrizzani now part of a consortium currently completing the purchase of the Italian club Sampdoria, the 49ers Enterprises has valued Leeds at £170m. Had they retained the Premier League (the highest level of the English football league system) status last month, that price would have been around £400m.

The agreement, announced by Leeds on June 9th, 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 the Chief Executive. Kinnear has enjoyed considerable success in that role, increasing the club’s turnover and maximizing the commercial revenue streams.

It remains to be seen whether Peter Lowy will continue his involvement. The Australian, currently domiciled in California (US), 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.

Peter Lowy is a lifelong Leeds United fan who is a “significant investor” through the family’s investment company Lowy Family Group, in the 49ers Enterprises investment vehicle.

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 Manager 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 (former Leeds Manager), 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 (former Leeds Manager) last month, Radrizzani’s popularity was hardly enhanced by the revelation that he had, at one point, offered to use Elland Road as a collateral in his bid to buy Sampdoria.

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