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New Leeds chairman Marathe: Premier League needs us | Radrizzani: Didn’t end the way I wished

New Leeds chairman Paraag Marathe says the Premier League needs us’, while Andrea Radrizzani says his tenure ‘didn’t end the way I wished’.

The Championship club are now owned by 49ers Enterprises after the EFL formally approved their £170m takeover overnight.

The investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers purchased a 15% stake in Leeds in 2018 and increased that to 44% in 2021.

They now have full control after announcing the purchase of Andrea Radrizzani’s share.

Leeds also confirmed that existing chief executive Angus Kinnear will remain in his current position while entrepreneur Rudy Cline-Thomas, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Mastry, will join the board as co-owner and vice chairman.

Radrizzani bought Leeds outright for £45m in 2017 but his stake had reduced to 56% by the time he sold up and claimed that the new custodians would move the club forward.

CLUB STATEMENT:

Today, Leeds United Football Club can announce that the EFL has approved the sale of the Club to 49ers Enterprises, paving the way for the immediate transition of ownership.

Paraag Marathe, previously Vice Chairman and Board member of the Club, will take over as Leeds United Chairman. In this role, Marathe will oversee all aspects of the Club, including football and business operations, and drive the strategy to fight for promotion back to the Premier League in the 2023-2024 season. Marathe takes over from Andrea Radrizzani, who has been majority owner of Leeds United since 2017. Angus Kinnear, CEO of Leeds United and Board member, will remain in his current position, and continue to direct the Club’s day-to-day operations. Rudy Cline-Thomas, Founder and Managing Partner of MASTRY, will join the Board as Co-Owner and Vice Chairman of the Club.

“This is an important moment for Leeds United and we are already hard at work,” said new Leeds chairman Paraag Marathe. “This transition is a necessary reset to chart a new course for the Club. We have already appointed a highly-respected First Team Manager with a track record of success, and we are confident Leeds will field a competitive squad to contend for promotion next season. It’s a privilege to carry this torch as I know we have a responsibility to ensure this Club makes our staff, players, supporters, and the Leeds and Yorkshire communities proud.”

Paraag Marathe

Cline-Thomas added, “With my family hailing from Leeds, it’s an honour to be able to uplift this incredible community. This is more than just an opportunity, it’s a personal mission. The chance to reinvigorate the cherished Leeds culture, to create a platform that attracts the world’s finest players, and build a truly global brand that celebrates diversity, is a prospect that thrills me.”

49ers Enterprises, led by Marathe and 49ers CEO Jed York, has steadily supported and increased its investment in Leeds United over the past five years. Moving forward, the group will look to enhance all aspects of the Club both on and off the pitch. Marathe, Kinnear, and the Club recently announced the appointment of Daniel Farke as First Team Manager. The Club’s leadership has also been laying the groundwork to build a successful squad by retaining key players from last season’s team as well as bringing in new talent.

“49ers Enterprises is bringing fresh leadership, management, and a commitment to investment, which I’m confident will meet our ambition to compete for promotion and remain in the top flight as an established Premier League Club,” said Kinnear. “I know Paraag, Rudy and 49ers Enterprises will keep supporters central to their plans during their custodianship and I am excited to work in realising the true potential of this great club.”

Radrizzani said, “It has been an honour to guide Leeds United over the last six years and to spend so much time with the best fanbase in the world. 49ers Enterprises have been fantastic partners for years and I’m confident they will take Leeds to the next level.”

About 49ers Enterprises

49ers Enterprises is the strategic arm of the San Francisco 49ers focused on investments in teams, leagues and other sports properties. 49ers Enterprises is the full owner of Leeds United Football Club. The group is led by President Paraag Marathe and was formed to expand the excellence of the 49ers into other ventures and to capitalize on the brand’s respected reputation across the sports world. The work of 49ers Enterprises is informed by the team’s industry-leading expertise in sporting operations, as well as marketing, sponsorships, merchandising, retail, and business development.

New Leeds chairman Paraag Marathe said in an interview with the official Leeds United Podcast: “I hate the fact that we didn’t get the chance to stay in the Premier League. But one thing it did show me. Everybody tells me that Leeds deserves to be in the Premier League because it is a big club and that is true.

“The Premier League needs Leeds. Call it whatever you want. The way we play. The tenacity in which we play. Our history. The Premier League needs us. They know that they need us because we make the league more special.

“There is something different about Leeds. It is not like these other clubs. A lot of these clubs have had great success. Better success than we have had. But we have something that they do not have. There is a movement beneath the surface, and I want to be a part of that movement and I cannot wait to see what that becomes in five, ten years.”

He said: “It has been an interesting ride the last four or five years. I have been a passenger on the train so far. I haven’t really had my chance on the controls or had a front-seat view of how a football club runs. I have learned a lot over that time.

“I am different from your typical chairman or owner. I am not a fifth-generation multi-billionaire who is doing this for a hobby or wants to kill some time. That is quite the opposite. I came up on my own and I grew up loving sports. That is first and foremost who I am. I love competition. I love winning. I have always had a chip on my shoulder because this is not a hobby, this is life to me. This is something that I am meant to do. I am a supporter first.

“I have a particular empathy and understanding of everyone’s jobs at the club because I have done all of those jobs. 23 years at the 49ers starting as an unpaid intern. I have been the head negotiator. I have been the president or chief executive of a team. I have built a stadium. I have hired coaches. I have been through the peaks and troughs of mountains in support. I have seen it all and been through it all. I think that differentiates me from any other club’s chairman.”

As New Leeds chairman Paraag Marathe gave an interview with the podcast, Andrea Radrizzani sat down with Sky Sports to talk through his time at Elland Road…

How would you look back on your time at Leeds?

“It was a very sweet time in my life but unfortunately it didn’t end in the way I wished.

“But I take with me a lot of nice memories and good friendship. I love Leeds and living in Yorkshire. I was a unique experience.”

What was the best memory?

“Obviously, it was winning the Championship and getting promotion to the Premier League with Marcelo [Bielsa]. That was the main goal and the reason why I came to the club.

“It’s bitter now to know the club is back in the Championship but in my six years I achieved what I wanted.

“But it was the peak and the best part of my experience.”

What does it feel like now to be leaving the club in these circumstances?

“It’s sad as we worked hard for six years, took risks and made a lot of money. If you look at the numbers when I bought the club, the revenue was £36m in the Championship.

“After three years, it was £60m revenue and we got to £210m revenue in the Premier League. The numbers reflect the transformation of the club.

“You can also see the transformation in the way the city now engages with the club. Football is a great platform and we brought back life and energy to the city.

“We also invested a lot in the infrastructure at the club – the training ground, lounges. Overall, I feel we’ve left a solid, modern club compared with what I found when I arrived.”

Was Kenny Dalglish the man who advised you to buy Leeds?

“The best, most dangerous piece of advice I’ve ever received! It was good advice but obviously football business is risky and it’s not easy. You’re in less control than in other activities, but I’ve learned a lot in the past six years.

“I’ve been asking myself, ‘should I continue or not?’ But I’ve wanted to continue because you get a lot back from people. The impact football has on people is incredible and unique. There is nothing like it and there’s such adrenaline.

“The unpredictability of the sport keeps you alive.”

What are the main things you have learned?

“I’ve learned to respect that the fans are the owners and you are just the custodian of the club. This is important. Even though I’ve learned through mistakes, I’ve realised just how important the fans are in the managing of the club.

“Even though sometimes they don’t realise why you’ve made some choices, it is difficult to explain when you can’t communicate continually. Sometimes it’s not right to explain too much but the reality is that they own the club.

“Sometimes it is best to take a different direction to the one the average fan would take in the club’s best interest.

“In football, sometimes you need to make changes to management. Loyalty is important but in some cases it’s not healthy to keep people for 10-15 years like I have in other companies.

“I thought I could do the same in football but the reality is that it’s healthier that there is greater turnover in the key people.”

Was the best decision during your time the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa?

“Yes, 100 per cent among all the coaches. Not just because we played our best football under him. He transformed the culture of the club, the work ethic and the education, behaviour of the staff.

“He was excellent but as Marcelo has shown throughout his career, after a period of time, the demands he has of people around him can become a ‘boomerang’ in the sense that it can become saturated and people can suffer the stress.

“Sometimes the pressure can become stressful. We both remember at the end of the first season in the Premier League, we finished ninth.

“It was a brilliant season and I remember sitting down with Marcelo. He actually said, ‘you should change me or you should change all the players because we can’t do better than that unless we make changes’.

“He was aware the situation was at the limit. We decided to stay one extra year with a view to him becoming a director of football on top of the coach role.

“I wanted him to stay for as long as possible but the reality was that we knew the risk. Both of us knew the risk and so perhaps then was the right time to make the change.

“I wasn’t brave enough to make such a decision after finishing ninth in the league. For him, he also wanted to enjoy another season with the fans inside the stadium.

“The season we did very well, we couldn’t enjoy it with our fans because of Covid. These are circumstances we can always say, ‘what if’, but we can retain this legacy.

“I know I’m hated by some fans for sacking Marcelo but it was hard for me too because I know what he represented for the club. At that moment, I thought I was making the right decision for the club.”

Was it your decision to appoint Jesse Marsch?

“The summer before, [former sporting director] Victor [Orta] analysed about 40 coaches. He was preparing the club to select a coach that could carry on Marcelo’s legacy and his style of football.

“I remember sitting in my office watching the videos of match situations and training where from the drone camera you could see some very similar activities in the training between Marcelo and Jesse Marsch.

“I remember being shown by Victor Red Bull Salzburg vs Napoli and Red Bull Salzburg vs Liverpool in the Champions League and he compared it to Liverpool vs Leeds in the Premier League.

“It was interesting to see how in some situations the team performed very similarly. We identified him as the best coach to keep the legacy.

“The reality is that when Jesse arrived, he produced a miracle to save us from relegation, but it wasn’t really down to tactics.

“It was mainly due to the motivational impact that he had – being vocal, energetic and close to the players – exactly the opposite to Marcelo.

“Jesse did a great job in that time but over a longer period I was expecting to see the coach come out and to show a similar playing style to Marcelo.

“But this never happened. To be honest, I was very confused. The tactics that he showed sometimes were a bit confusing – not only for me but for the players.

“We had situations where a winger would be playing as a midfielder – things like that. Personally, I wanted to make a change before the World Cup, then I was persuaded to hold on.

“I think it was a huge mistake as we had the slot of six weeks to make changes. Other teams successfully used this period but we ended up making the change in February, with very few options.

“Javi [Gracia] tried his best but the team was physically not good enough and it’s not the same as it was under Marcelo.

“I was distant and quite passive in all these situations and just living in hope until the last month when I was desperate. I sent Javi and Victor home and tried to play magical cards with Sam [Allardyce].

“Maybe had Sam arrived earlier we could have done better, as he is a man of character, but he found a team on its knees, physically and mentally.”

You can read more on this interview by clicking HERE and going halfway down that page.

As new Leeds chairman Paraag Marathe says the ‘Premier League needs us’ and Radrizzani adds that it ‘didn’t end the way I wished’, fans gave their reaction…

@Kmcurtis74: I don’t care what anyone says I will look back on @andrearadri tenure with fondness. I was never more proud nor excited to watch my team than when we had Bielsa and although his tenure was not perfect it certainly was a great ride. Thank you Andrea!

@1966lufc: I hope that one day the fans can appreciate that AR took us to dreamland with Marcelo & left the club in a better financial state than when he arrived. Yes he got a lot wrong too but we know his heart was in the club. He should have sold a year ago but its easy to say that now.

@bandforgood: I look back and think of the good football we played under his ownership, typical leeds we couldn’t be there to see it live when we won the league, he also brought in the 49ers group to now push harder to go up and stay longer, the downside was him relying on Orta too much.

@JT20John: We need to leave the guy alone, we’ve had worse owners and in my opinion he did a great job in the whole. it’s time to look forward not stress about stuff we can’t change.

@MarkWhi62509976: @andrearadri thank you for taking control of club when no one else would bringing hope back the fans didn’t end way any of us wanted but looks like you have sold us to a group who have high ambitions which that I’m thankful for 🙏🏻 all the best at Sampdoria

@OfficialChops: Say what you want about @andrearadri – He did stabilise the club. He brought us the Bielsa years & the championship title that he promised however he will be remembered for the transfer failings when it mattered. Personally wish you well and thank you for your efforts! #MOT #ALAW

@eddervish: The clubs one of many gambles Bielsa came off, the rest was a disaster. Loads is mistakes before and after.

@leedsroc92: Too much faith in Orta sadly his downfall. Still the best owner in my lifetime anyway (not hard).

@azz_lufc: All the best Andrea, thank you for your hard work and putting us in a much healthier light, and for letting us experience the great time under Marcelo, great memories. Hopefully we are in good hands to help push us back up and continue what you started 👏🏻

@OliWhiteMOT93: If we can keep Wober, Sinisterra, and Adams then we will be absolutely fine

@Toneball29: Actions speak louder than words. We wait.

@efcwakes: Premier league survived 16 years without them. That said, the league is better with their fanbase in it.

@ArsenaLouu: They coped without them for 16 seasons. I’m sure they’ll manage.

@DidiX11_: Blackburn rovers have more significance lol

@timpayton: Best get promoted then. Earn it. As I think they once said in Leeds.

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