Italian company set to take over at 2nd-tier Leeds

An Italian company run by the owners of Serie A team Cagliari is on the verge of taking over fallen English power Leeds, pledging Saturday to return the club to the Premier League.

Leeds' current owners — GFH Capital, a Bahraini investment bank — released a statement saying they have agreed to sell a 75 percent stake in the club to Eleonora Sport Ltd., which is run by the Cellino family. Financial details were not given.

"They come to English football with an ambition to support Leeds United financially to take it to the Premier League and a belief that the club can sustain top-flight status," GFH said in the Leeds statement.

It added that the Cellino family "plan to invest substantially in the club." Eleonora — headed by businessman Massimo Cellino — has owned Cagliari since 1992. Leeds reached the Champions League semifinals in 2001 but was relegated from the Premier League three years later after being engulfed in financial problems.

The northern team, which won the English top-flight title in 1992 and was a major force in football in the 1970s, is currently 12th in the League Championship. The latest development comes amid a tumultuous few days at Leeds, with manager Brian McDermott saying Friday that he was no longer in charge of the team after less than a year in the role.

Leeds didn't officially confirmed McDermott's departure and his assistant, Nigel Gibbs, took charge of the team for its 5-1 home win over Yorkshire rival Huddersfield on Saturday. A statement released by Leeds after the match said that McDermott "has not been dismissed from his post as has been suggested and we look forward to him continuing in his role."

The prospective takeover requires approval of the English Football League.

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