Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino last night offered to sell his majority stake to supporters group Leeds Fans United in a sensational development which signalled his intention to quit the club.
Cellino made his offer during talks at Elland Road on Friday, less than 24 hours after facing calls to abandon his tenure during a 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers.
The Italian’s fraught period in charge of Leeds reached a new depth as a crowd of more than 19,000 chanted en masse for Cellino to sell the club amid a poor run of form and fresh off-field turmoil.
Cellino is facing a Football League ban for the second time in his 18 months in charge and will be disqualified until June of next year unless he overturns the ruling.
The 59-year-old has appealed his ban but his decision to offer his shares to Leeds Fan United is a clear indication of his willingness to walk away.
Cellino told the BBC: “One hundred per cent I will sell to the fans, if they want to buy it and look after the club. The fans are the only asset the club has.”
A statement from Leeds Fans United said: “Leeds Fans Utd has reached agreement in principle with Massimo Cellino to purchase a majority stake in Leeds United Football Club.”
Leeds Fans United was formed earlier this year with the aim of buying a minority shareholding in Leeds. It has raised in the region of £500,000 through supporter donations.
The group has been in regular contact with Cellino recently and he made his offer following fresh discussions on Friday. Leeds Fans United is yet to comment on whether it has the necessary backing in place to take up his proposal.
Cellino has not named a price but he is understood to have told Leeds Fans United that he will sell his stake “without profit”.
The former Cagliari owner purchased a 75 per cent shareholding in Leeds from Gulf Finance House through his UK firm Eleonora Sport Limited in April 2014.
Cellino paid an upfront fee of £5m to buy out GFH and was due to pay a further £5m in December of last year.
His original deal involved the repayment of more than £20m of debt owed to GFH, though he spent his initial months at Elland Road trying to renegotiate that sum.
Amid rumours of takeover bids late last year - at a time when Cellino was facing his first Football League ban - he was rumoured to have valued his stake at around £60m.
Large sums of cash, meanwhile, were injected in United in return for equity earlier this year. That money is believed to have come from Cellino and Eleonora Sport Limited.
Cellino’s spell at the helm of United has been dogged by constant controversy, disruption and legal battles.
The Italian has sacked no fewer than five managers and head coaches in that period and last night’s defeat left United facing up to a relegation battle in the Championship.
Cellino was subjected to chants of “Massimo, time to go” and “sell the club and f*** off home” after Leeds, under new head coach Steve Evans, capitulated to two goals in the first six minutes of the match.