Manchester United may not be Champions of England this year, but it was announced on Monday evening that we held the title of another award, the world’s most valuable sports team. Forbes estimates Manchester United is now worth $2.23 billion, 19% more than No. 2 Real Madrid, which is worth $1.88 billion.
United fans will once again get a chance to own a piece of the iconic club as the Glazer family filed plans this month for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. The Glazers took the club private in 2005 in a leveraged buyout worth $1.47 billion. (the team traded on the London Stock Exchange before then.)
However there are some limitations, even if you have a minor stake in the club: the Glazers intend to keep control of the club through a dual-class share structure in which the Glazers’ stock will be worth 10 votes apiece, while investors will get one vote for each of their shares. Dual-class shares are unusual, but a number of high-profile companies, including Facebook, LinkedIn and The New York Times, use them to retain control while they sell ownership stakes to the public. With the offering, the team can reduce its hefty debt load, which stood at $663 million as of March.
United rake in a lot of income through several high-profile sponsorship deals, Insurer Aon pays $31 million a year to put its name on the team’s jerseys in a deal that runs through 2014. Last year, DHL Express inked a four-year deal with the club worth a reported $62 million to sponsor Manchester United’s practice jerseys. It is the first case of a practice jersey sponsorship deal for any football team in the U.K. Nike manages the team’s merchandise sales and the agreement is worth a minimum of $39 million annually for Manchester United based on overall sales in a deal through 2015.
Despite sitting on top of the valuation tree, these figures do not hide the fact there is mass disapproval towards the Glazer regime. Many are of the opinion that the crippling debt is exacerbating United’s potential transfer activity. In the past, there was the infamous ‘green and gold campaign’, this has been followed up by an online plan to oust the Glazer’s from power.