Manchester United purchase: The buyers big and small

The time is quickly approaching for the Glazer family — owners of Manchester United — to decide the fate of the team. Currently, opinions on the sale are mixed, as the numbers that they are being offered are quite high, just not quite as high as they had hoped for.

The Hopeful Bid

There aren’t many frontrunner bids for Manchester United. In fact, at the time of this article, there are only two promising bids for a majority stake.

One is from Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of the Qatari royal family. A reportedly massive fan of Manchester United, Sheik Jassim has created a foundation known as the Nine Two Foundation specifically for purchasing Manchester United. The foundation was named after the famous Class of ’92, the academy team which featured David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, as well as Gary and Phil Neville.

The other bid comes from Sir Jim Ratcliffe, chairman and chief executive officer of the INEOS chemicals group. INEOS is no stranger to owning sports clubs, currently owning the French professional football club OGC Nice, as well as Swiss Super League FC Lausanne-Sport. When it comes to Manchester United, however, Sir Ratcliffe has reportedly been a fan of the club since his childhood.

Currently, both of their bids are in the range of about £4.5 billion—although how they decide to sweeten the deal varies greatly.

While Sheikh Jassim has made a debt-free bid for Manchester United, promising to wipe out all debt on the club’s accounts through his Nine Two Foundation, Sir Ratcliffe has made no such promises on doing so. In fact, he has outright refused to match the bid. This is more than understandable, considering that there are some estimates placing the debt of Manchester United somewhere around £1 billion.

What’s the Hold Up?

Reportedly, the Glazers are torn over settling for the offers by either Sheikh Jassim or Sir Ratcliffe, hoping for a full buy-out in the range of about £6 billion. The siblings each have their own hopes for how much the company would sell for, but have promised that they would continue to discuss it and that each offer was under consideration by the family as a whole.

Notably, a purchase of £6 billion would obliterate the previous record of highest price ever paid for a sports team, which was just achieved by the purchase of Chelsea FC in 2022. A conglomerate, led by part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers Todd Boehly, purchased Chelsea for £4.25 billion. And although current offers already would put this deal in the record books, the Glazer family still seems intent on holding out for a little bit more.

It’s a risky deal, considering how much money is on the table already. Holding out for cash like this isn’t like sports themed slot games, especially considering the current shift that the team is going through. The team is currently in stellar form going into this new year, but if no decision is made regarding the purchase by the end of the 2022/2023 campaign, then it could seriously put the entire prospect of a takeover in jeopardy.

Luckily, both Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe are set to meet shortly.

What About a Minority Stake?

While both Sheikh Jassim and Sir Ratcliffe seem intent on making the club their own, they have hinted at the possibility of putting in for a minority stake of Manchester United instead. It does seem, however, that both parties would vastly prefer to have majority ownership of the club.

There are other parties who are considering putting forth bids for a minority stake, however. One such interested party is Genevra Associates, a Luxembourg-based hedge fund. The group has offered purchasing a minority stake and have offered to work with the Glazers, the current majority holders, as part of their bid.

Their bid, however, would come with a condition: they want to make it so that fans—perhaps not as wealthy as Ratcliffe and Jassim—could purchase a stake in the club. This would enable the club to essentially “go public,” letting fans the world over own up to a 50 per cent stake in the club in total.

Rounding Up the Buyers

While the two big contenders certainly have their pros and cons, the possibility of a third, smaller investor has certainly spiced up the talks moving forward. And although Genevra Associates are coming to the table a bit late, it will be interesting to see what their offer brings to the discussions surrounding the future of the team. 

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