Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino has withdrawn his offer to sell the club to a fan-led consortium as the future of the Elland Road continues to be embroiled in uncertainty. The Italian businessman, who is barred from running the Championship side after a Football League ban, had previously made a verbal agreement to offload his shares to supporters group Leeds Fans Utd.
But after a follow-up enquiry from the fans group saw Cellino fail to firm up his offer with written confirmation, the conglomerate were informed by his lawyers that negotiations had ended. The 59-year-old still intends to sell the club but his search for a buyer continues.
"Leeds Fans Utd has just been informed by the lawyers of Massimo Cellino that he no longer wishes to sell to Leeds fans," a statement read. "Our insistence on him confirming his verbal offer of exclusivity in a legally binding agreement has forced transparency on his motives. It is much better that we identify this insincerity now before we spend our shareholder's money.
"This exercise has proved our capacity to adapt to any acquisition scenario very quickly. We now know we have the capacity to do both a minority and majority deal, and it has shown that Leeds fans have a desire for fan ownership. We hope that Massimo will treat the club and fans with respect and honour."
Cellino has vowed to never return for a home match after being subject to abuse from fans during the 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers. Leeds won their first home match since March against Cardiff City on 3 November as new manager Steve Evans, the sixth boss of Cellino's spell at the helm, claimed his first victory in his fourth match since succeeding Uwe Rosler.
A Football League ban until June 2016 for failing the owners' and directors' test having been found guilty of tax fraud for not paying tax on a yacht, Cellino is currently unable to influence football operations at Leeds. After a harrowing 18 months in charge, Cellino is keen to part ways with the West Yorkshire side, but not without recouping his investment.
"They [the fans group] say a lot of fairytales," he told the Yorkshire Evening Post, who understand the club is valued at £30m ($46.2m). "They really are like kids in a sweet shop. They talk too much. It is dangerous, this kind of publicity. I'm very hurt and sad. I can't take any more."