LONDON (AP) — Cagliari president Massimo Cellino can take over Leeds after successfully challenging the Football League's attempt to block him from buying the fallen English power over a tax conviction.
The Football League, which runs the divisions below the Premier League, had ruled that Cellino's conviction in Italy for failing to pay import taxes on a yacht he purchased in the United States was "a disqualifying condition" under the test directors must pass.
But lawyer Tim Kerr, who heard the appeal, said in a judgment released Saturday that Cellino's conviction was not a "dishonest act." The league said it was "disappointed at the outcome."
But the path has now been cleared for Cellino to complete his purchase of 75 percent of Leeds through Eleonora Sport from Bahraini investment bank GFH Capital, which will retain a 25-percent stake in the second-tier club.
"Massimo is someone who has the attributes to take this club forward," said Leeds executive David Haigh, who will become chief executive. "He has a proven track record in Italy, and I believe the introduction of Eleonora Sport, coupled with Massimo's drive and determination, will be key to a successful and sustainable future for this great football club."
Leeds is 15th in the 24-team League Championship, 13 points off a place in the playoffs, as it seeks a return to the Premier League for the first time since 2004. Leeds won the English top-flight title in 1992 and reached the Champions League semifinals in 2001 before falling into financial difficulties.
Cellino, who will become Leeds president, has already paid more than 2 million pounds ($3 million) into the northern club.