Full Extent Of Leeds' Financial Problem

Last updated : 24 January 2004 By Kevin Markey
An article in today's Independent states employees across all departments, commercial, secretarial, marketing, travel, have been laid off when Leeds' European "dream" died, including a whole publishing department which was closed down.

Leeds, now run by Trevor Birch, an insolvency practitioner, and Neil Robson, a finance director specialising in "distressed companies", owe, at a conservative estimate, £105m, £82m to REFF and the 25-year bond-holders, including the Prudential-owned M & G, MetLife, and Teachers.

Interest runs at a fixed 7.695 per cent, or £4,617k a year. However, the "standstill agreement" which Birch has negotiated with the bond-holders is not, as has been reported, a freezing of the interest payments until £5m can be found to get Leeds to the end of their miserable season.

In fact, a club source explained, the interest is paid annually, on 1 September, and so is not due for some months. Leeds' problem is that they cannot pay the wages and other commitments with the money they have coming in.

The "standstill agreement" is that the bondholders have allowed the club to raid a "locked off" amount of £4m, which was put away, secured, when the £60m was first loaned.

Leeds are dipping into that to meet their requirements while Birch desperately seeks a solution. He was hoping that a deferral of players' wages would be it. Instead, advised by the Professional Footballers' Association, the players asked for all other options to be considered first, which obviously includes selling a player.

The players fear they could lose their money if the club goes bust at the end of the season. Although this coming Monday has been given as the latest final deadline by the two major creditors, it would be surprising if they insist on it and put the club into administration without waiting until the end of the month, by which time a player might have been sold or the team asked again about a deferral.

In all this, little has been heard about the ordinary people, suppliers and public bodies who stand to lose if Leeds fall. The club's position is not understood to be very different from the most recent accounts, which showed they owed £1.2m to trade creditors - surprisingly low but still a lot of pain in there - and £7.7m to the Inland Revenue and VAT. These creditors will lose out almost completely in an administration, but the players will not lose a penny.

Leeds may be the first club to give the Premier League a headache, previously the Premiership has been happy to see its clubs collapse when relegated and dismiss it as the Football League's problem. Leeds are, however, unlikely to be the last.

Full article can be read by David Conn in today's Independent