Massimo Cellino has declared himself “ashamed” and ready to “jump from the window” after he was told by the Football League he could not complete his takeover of Leeds United.
The Italian today failed the League’s owners’ and directors’ test in the wake of his tax offence conviction last week.
The announcement put the skids on his Eleonora Sport company completing the 75 per cent purchase it agreed at the start of last month from current owners Gulf Finance House Capital.
GFH Capital responded by saying it had not given up on the project, which appears to be on its knees after nearly two months of in-the-public-domain negotiations.
The 57-year-old Cellino did not give off too positive an air tonight, though, saying of the conviction relating to an unpaid tax on his yacht: “I’m not a dishonest man. If they say I did this, I am stupid. Why would I do something like this? Because I am a fool - I am stupid.
“There’s different justice in Italy. I prefer the English way, but I am in Italy unfortunately. I pay millions and millions at clubs and they [the courts] say I tried to screw them over for a small amount. It’s stupid. I could pay that tomorrow.
“I am not a dishonest crook. If I made a mistake, it was not on purpose. I’m shocked, I’m very shocked. I feel like I will disappear. I am so ashamed of myself, you have no idea. It’s not about the money at the moment.
“I didn’t try and do anything bad to Leeds, to anyone - I just wanted to do something good. I’m so shocked that I feel like I will jump from the window right now. I feel so ashamed.
"Why did they take two months to wait for the decision of the Italian court? I could have delayed the trial for one or two years if I had wanted.”
The Football League issued a statement earlier today announcing Cellino’s conviction last week for a tax offence in Italy constituted “a disqualifying condition under its owners’ and directors’ test”.
But GFH Capital has added to mounting confusion at Elland Road by revealing it is still in talks with the League and Eleonora Sport in a bid “to find a solution that is suitable to all parties”.
GFH Capital exchanged contracts to sell 75 per cent of the club’s shares to Eleonora Sport on February 7 and it would appear Leeds’ current owner is determined to keep the deal alive.
“The club and its shareholders are disappointed at the decision of the Football League not to approve Massimo Cellino as a director of Leeds United FC,” GFH Capital’s statement read.
“However, the board and executive management of the club will continue discussions with the Football League and Eleonora Sport to find a solution that is suitable to all parties.”
Cellino, who owns Italian club Cagliari, has bankrolled Leeds for the last two months and fans fear the club could slide into administration if a new owner is not found soon and the agricultural entrepreneur wants his money back.
Leeds managing director David Haigh has insisted there is “no chance” of the club going into administration.
The League’s decision to block Cellino’s takeover was taken at a board meeting last night which considered his eligibility in the wake of his conviction in Sardinia.
The league said in a statement: “Mr Cellino was recently found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a Court in Sardinia of an offence under Italian tax legislation relating to the non-payment of import duties on a boat.
“This resulted in a fine of 600,000 euros (£500,800), an order for the payment of trial costs and the confiscation of the boat in question.
“Having fully considered the matter, the board agreed unanimously that the decision of the Italian court does constitute a disqualifying condition under its owners’ and directors’ test.
“The relevant disqualifying condition being that Massimo Cellino has been convicted of an offence involving acts that would reasonably be considered to be dishonest.”
Cellino is entitled to lodge an appeal against the decision within 14 days, but had previously stated he would “walk away without a fight” if his takeover was not approved.
The League statement added: “In such circumstances, the League would seek to expedite the process to deliver certainty to all parties in the shortest possible timeframe.”
Bahrain-based investment firm GFH Capital has been searching for major investment since buying the club from Ken Bates in December 2012.
A rival consortium to Cellino, headed by Andrew Flowers, chief executive of club sponsor Enterprise Insurance, withdrew from the race to take control at Elland Road at the end of January.
Another group, Together Leeds, fronted by former Manchester United international managing director Mike Farnan, has been waiting in the background, but it is understood there are other unnamed parties ready to step up their bids.
GFH Capital has so far refused to enter into serious talks with Together Leeds after rejecting a “derisory” offer from them in November.