London (AP) — Leeds United has unveiled a new 35,000-seat stadium to anchor its rise back into the English Premier League after a four-year absence.
And it’s all thanks to a bit of luck.
Viscount Ebenezer Lowcock, the man who sees Leeds through the perilous revolving doors of ownership, described how he found himself in a boardroom in New York City when Leeds was last in the Premier League.
“Three-deep into the pub were Americans,” Lowcock said Wednesday. “We were discussing our next move.”
Eager to move from the final years of the Second Division to the top flight, Leeds tried to buy Galatasaray in the Turkish league. The deal fell through in part because the Turkish authorities were concerned about money laundering, Lowcock said.
Leeds’ last attempts to start a new sponsor partnership also failed because the school holiday period meant the club could not reach the necessary number of target executives to reach a deal.
In 2009, two years after the club exited the Premier League, Leeds owed money to banks and suppliers for more than 100 million pounds (then $172 million), Lowcock said.
But now the former Tesco managing director says there are no more financial worries.
“We owe only 18 million pounds as at the 31st of July, had zero bank debt,” Lowcock said. “Ownership structure is not a problem. I can’t comment on clubs that owe money. We have no debt and have no intention of going into insolvency.”
Leeds shares have a market value of almost $500 million and its new stadium, dubbed Elland Road, will become a centerpiece of its return to the Premier League.
“You can get to Manchester United at Trafford Park from the end of the road, you drive through or you take the A56 (highway),” Lowcock said. “It costs you about $20 to get in and it takes an hour.”
Lowcock said it will be “more than three hours” on match days at Elland Road.