There has been cause for consternation amongst Leeds fans, not least on my Twitter feed and on the forums, that GFH Capital’s takeover (now confirmed) will merely be a method by which Bates will extend his stay at Elland Road. After all, Bates will be chairman of the football club until the end of the season, after which he will become Honorary President of the board, fulfilling the role Lord Harewood did before his passing last year.
HOWEVER, and this is a big however (see, it is capitalised and everything), history has provided us with a set of convenient precedents to look at, not least with the fall of Bates’s own involvement at Chelsea, but also with the Abu Dhabi United takeover of Manchester City.
Here’s a quote directed at me on Twitter last night:
“There’s no way City/Chelsea owner would buy Leeds if Bates forced them to keep him on!”
Contrary to that statement, history already shows us that Roman Abramovich WAS forced to keep Ken Bates on, at least temporarily. As previously discussed, Ken Bates is a man obsessed with legacy, a megalomaniac who hates even a fraction of a second out of the sun. His Daily Mail interview with Neil Ashton (look it up, I’m not willing to provide them more hits) prior to the Chelsea game proves this.
“‘I held Suzannah’s hand and told her, “I have to save Leeds United”.’”
Bates, even upon departure, is keen to stress his importance for Leeds and his place in history. He is a man who knows the end comes for all, and feels it imperative to be known, and thought about, even after death.
Back to the point, however, and history. Abramovich was forced to retain Ken Bates as chairman, even after his takeover. The date of that takeover? June 2003. The date of Ken’s departure from Stamford Bridge? March 2004. Bates had seen his role as Chairman stretching into a glorious future, yet it was wrestled quickly from his grasp. Out of the limelight, Bates was unhappy. As to how difficult it was for a man with unlimited wealth to remove Ken Bates from his club, Bates hinted at the reality when he named a company set up to complete the takeover of Leeds ‘Romans Heavies’. Ken Bates, even facing a man with incredible riches, literally had to be dragged kicking and screaming from Chelsea.
Manchester City, similarly, had to deal with an unwanted presence after the now famed takeover by Sheikh Mansour. Post-takeover, with the former Thai PM fighting corruption charges and seeking political asylum in the UK, Thaksin Shinawatra was made honorary president of the club, like Bates will be. Again, some of the wealthiest people in the world having to cow-tow to the egomania of a formerly important man. He was, once again, removed swiftly from that position when convicted of corruption.
GFH Capital may have to deal with Bates currently, but the reality is that the chairman will have little power in the ‘New Leeds’. CEO Shaun Harvey has heavy ties to the new regime, with rumours suggesting that he made much of the deal possible. He is responsible for the day-to-day dealings at Elland Road, and has been for many years – after all, there is a limit to what tax exile Ken Bates can do from his home in Monaco on a daily basis. Neil Warnock himself has often talked about how “Shaun” was working hard to complete transfer dealings. GFH have even said themselves today that “the buck stops with [them]”. How much of club policy can Ken actually control in this situation? He is not at Elland Road day-to-day, he is not in control of the purse strings any longer, he is not in charge of the team itself. What does he actually control?
Richer people than GFH Capital have had to wait to get rid of Bates and other unfortunate leeches from old regimes, and it should come as no major issue that placating Bates was the only way to get his hands away from the club. Today’s press conference, Bates-less and without massive deference to his “legacy”, shows what the reality is. Ken Bates will have no power in the ‘New Leeds’.
Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).