Massimo Cellino has confirmed the sale of 50 per cent of his stake in second-tier English soccer side Leeds United to Andrea Radrizzani.
The Italian TV rights mogul, who is best known as the co-founder of global sports media agency MP & Silva, purchased the stake through his Aser Group Holding company and its acquisition vehicle, Greenfield Investment.
The long-mooted buy-out has gone through after the English Football League (EFL) ratified the deal, which sees Cellino retain a 50 per cent holding and remain in place as co-owner of the Championship club despite an impending 18-month ban handed down by the Football Association (FA) in December. The charges against Cellino relate to a payment of UK£185,000 made to an unlicensed agent during the sale of striker Ross McCormack to Fulham in 2014. The ban comes into effect on 1st February, though Cellino has confirmed his intention to appeal.
The ban is far from the first controversy in which Cellino has been embroiled since taking over at Leeds in April 2014. His initial application to purchase the club was rejected by the EFL, then in its guise as The Football League, as he failed to pass its fit and proper persons test. That decision was overturned on appeal, only for Cellino to be banned and asked to resign by The Football League later in that year relating to charges of tax evasion in his native Italy.
He is also renowned for his trigger-happy approach with his employees, having installed seven separate first-team managers during his three years at the club.
Cellino had previously worked closely with Radrizzani and MP & Silva while the former was vice-president and chairman of the board of Lega Calcio Serie A, the governing body for Italian soccer's top tier.
According to rumours which circulated late last year, the deal includes an option for Radrizzani to acquire the remaining 50 per cent in the club at the end of the current Championship season.
"I am fully aware of the great heritage and traditions of Leeds United and I will endeavour to be a fitting custodian on behalf of the many thousands of Leeds supporters," said Radrizzani in a statement released by the club.
“I am making a long-term commitment to Leeds United and will work to bring stability through ongoing investment. I aim to bring sustainable growth. I won’t do anything that will put the club’s future at risk. Through working in the sports industry for many years, I have developed a great passion for the English game and I am honoured to have become joint owner of one of the country’s biggest clubs."
Cellino, meanwhile, said he felt that the arrival of a new partner in the club was "the only way we can get better".
He added: "Andrea is young and brings a new energy with him, as well as having a good experience in the football media business, which is the future for all clubs.
"I feel that bringing Andrea in as a 50 per cent shareholder to work with me is the best choice we could have made. We will continue building a strong and healthy football club for the future."
Leeds currently sit in fifth place in English soccer's second tier, in the promotion play-off berths, seven points from Newcastle United in the second automatic spot for promotion to the Premier League.