LONDON: Controversial Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino on Wednesday (Jan 4) sold 50 per cent of his stake in the historic English club to a fellow Italian with strong business ties in China.
The 60-year-old Cellino, who has fired a succession of managers during his turbulent time at Leeds, had been in talks with Andrea Radrizzani since last summer over selling part of his shareholding.
Cellino, who is appealing a £250,000 fine (US$305,000) and 18-month ban over the transfer of Ross McCormack to Fulham, became sole owner of the Championship side in September having bought 75 per cent of the club in 2014 for a reported £30 million.
"Leeds United Football Club today confirms the completion of an investment by Aser Group Holding, through its acquisition vehicle Greenfield Investment Pte Ltd, in 50 per cent of the club's share capital," said a club statement.
"The agreement is between Massimo Cellino and Andrea Radrizzani, who is founder and group chairman of Aser Group Holding, the successful co-founder of international sports media rights company MP & Silva and a leading figure in the sports media industry over the past two decades."
MP & Silva holds the exclusive distribution rights for the Premier League in southeast Asia until 2019.
Radrizzani, 42, moved to assure Leeds fans over the club's future. "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, who are the lifeblood of the club," he said.
Radrizzani saw his bank balance grow considerably last May when MP & Silva sold a 65 per cent stake in the company to Chinese investment group Everbright Securities and Internet entertainment firm Baofeng.
Radrizzani was appointed president of Baofeng Sport International in June and was a key player in facilitating Chinese electronics company Suning buying Serie A giants Inter Milan.
The Italian said he had been very pleased with the manner in which the club's young manager Garry Monk had transformed Leeds into promotion candidates back to the Premier League for the first time in years.
They are fifth in the Championship, seven points off the automatic promotion places and in a rich vein of form having won four of their last five games.