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Leeds confirm approval for takeover by 49ers’ owners

Leeds United will be taken over by the owners of NFL franchise San Francisco 49ers. Photo: Rui Vieira/POOL/AFP

Leeds United announced Tuesday that the English Football League had approved the club’s takeover by the owners of NFL franchise San Francisco 49ers in the latest example of a US-based group taking a controlling stake in an English team.

Last month, Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani said he had agreed a deal to sell his controlling stake in the recently relegated Premier League club to co-owners 49ers Enterprises, which has been a minority shareholder in Leeds since 2018.

Former Norwich boss Daniel Farke was appointed manager at Elland Road on a four-year deal earlier this month, with Leeds bidding to make an immediate return to the Premier League following relegation in May.

Chairman Paraag Marathe said in a Leeds statement issued Tuesday: “This is an important moment for Leeds United and we are already hard at work.

“This transition is a necessary reset to chart a new course for the club. We have already appointed a highly-respected first-team manager with a track record of success, and we are confident Leeds will field a competitive squad to contend for promotion next season.”

Rudy Cline-Thomas, founder of venture capital firm MASTRY, who is joining the board as co-owner and vice-chairman, said: “With my family hailing from Leeds, it’s an honour to be able to uplift this incredible community.

“This is more than just an opportunity, it’s a personal mission.”

49ers Enterprises increased its stake in Leeds to 44 percent in 2021 with the option of buying Radrizzani’s remaining 56 percent before January 2024.

That agreement, which had valued Leeds at around £400 million ($500 million), was contingent on the club, a giant of English football in the late 1960s and early 1970s under manager Don Revie, remaining in the Premier League.

Leeds’ relegation forced both parties back into negotiations with the deal now reportedly worth a valuation of just £170 million.

Italian businessman Radrizzani bought Leeds in 2017 and helped lead the club back to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years, with the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa as manager proving a masterstroke.

However, after just three years back in the top flight, Leeds will be in the second-tier Championship next season after finishing 19th in the Premier League.

The 49ers takeover of Leeds means they have become the latest American group to have a controlling stake in an English football team, with top-flight Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Fulham, Aston Villa and Bournemouth all owned by US-based businessmen or consortia.

Meanwhile Hollywood actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney own Welsh club Wrexham, recently promoted to League Two, the fourth-tier of the English professional game. 

Paraag Marathe, previously vice-chairman, will take over as chairman, chief executive Angus Kinnear will remain in his current position and Rudy Cline-Thomas, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm MASTRY, will join the board as co-owner and vice-chairman.

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