Bahrain-based bank buys stake in Leeds United

LONDON Thu Mar 28, 2013 4:28pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Bahrain-based International Investment Bank has bought a 10 percent stake in Leeds United from the owners who took over the English football club three months ago.

Dubai-based GFH Capital said the deal was part of its strategy of bringing in additional investors to develop the Championship (second division) club. It paid 22 million pounds in December to buy out shareholders including Ken Bates, the former Chelsea owner.

There was confusion over the future of the former Premier League club when it emerged last week that GFH Capital's parent firm had said in its annual report that the club was already up for sale again.

"The introduction of IIB is in keeping with what have always been GFH Capital's aims for the successful, sustainable and long term ownership of Leeds United FC," David Haigh, deputy chief executive of GFH Capital, said on the club website (www.leedsunited.com).

GFH Capital says it wants to retain a significant stake in the club.

Leeds, who suffered financial problems and dropped down the leagues after reaching the 2001 Champions League semi-finals, are 10th in the Championship and retain only slim hopes of making the playoffs for a place in the lucrative Premier League.

Fans welcomed the latest twist in the club's ownership saga.

"We hope they're in a position to inject some much needed cash, to be invested on the pitch to build a team for next season," said Gary Cooper of Leeds United Supporters' Trust.

IIB's chief executive, Aabed Al-Zeera, will join the board of Leeds City Holdings Limited, the company which runs the club.

IIB's website describes its business as investing in property and private equity in conformity with Islamic shariah principles.

It has scaled back its investment activities in recent years following the global financial crisis and reported revenues of only $3.1 million in 2011.

(Reporting by Toby Davis and Keith Weir in London and Martin de Sa' Pinto in Zurich; editing by Mark Meadows)

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