Whether it’s coincidence or design that three of the biggest football clubs in England have been put up for sale in the past year remains to be seen.
Roman Abromovich was forced to sell Chelsea, by all accounts, due to the sanctions metered out on the Russian by the UK government.
But as for Liverpool and Manchester United, it seems as though their respective American owners are using the global recession as a reason to sell their shares.
It would take a brave investor to fork out the billions required to acquire a majority shareholding in either outfit given the current economic climate, but the private sector in Saudi Arabia is booming right now thanks to the considerable investment of the aristocracy in the Middle Eastern country.
One club, Newcastle United, has already been purchased by Saudi royalty, and while the Public Investment Fund (PIF) – the front for the state – has ruled out investing in a rival Premier League side, the country’s sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has stated that they wouldn’t object to private sector companies in Saudi Arabia from launching takeover bids of their own.
“I hope so, if there are investors and the numbers add up, and it makes a good business,” the Prince replied when quizzed on the potential for further Saudi takeovers in the English top flight.
“It’s the most watched league and there are diehard fans of these teams in the kingdom. So it would be a benefit for everyone.”
However, there will be plenty of opposition for both clubs from prospective buyers in the Western world, with Tom Pitts – of Inter Milan part-owner LionRock Capital – claiming that tough economic conditions would not be enough to stop investment coming in.
“These guys, they have so much money that I think if they start to get pinched elsewhere, it’s more or less a rounding error for their clubs,” he said.
Apple’s Sweet Deal
A number of different names have been bandied about as potential buyers of Manchester United, and among them is a global conglomerate that has taken everyone by surprise.
Reports suggest that tech giant Apple could be interesting in launching a takeover bid for the Old Trafford outfit.
With annual revenue in excess of £300 billion, Apple would certainly have the financial heft to see through a deal that could cost the buyer around £5 billion.
The Glazer family will be looking to maximise their return on investment, and few private investors – such as the lifelong Manchester United fan and billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe – could match the spending power of Apple.
The tech firm is yet to invest in a sports team in their native USA or overseas, but they did splash out around £2 billion earlier this year to become the exclusive streaming service of Major League Soccer.
If Apple were to successfully complete the deal, Manchester United would comfortably become the richest football club in the world – dwarfing the investment of PIF in Newcastle United.