Another week, another twist in the lengthy Manchester United takeover saga.
This time, Sir Jim Ratcliffe – one of the confirmed bidders via his INEOS operation – has proposed that he would buy a majority stake in the club but allow the Glazer family to retain a minority share.
It’s long been thought that the Glazers don’t really want to sell up, and that putting the Old Trafford club on the market was merely their way of attracting fresh investment – but at a level that would enable them to retain majority ownership.
Ratcliffe’s proposal may be of some interest to the American entrepreneurs, with the brothers Avram and Joel said to be keen to stay on at the club while their four siblings – Kevin, Bryan, Darcie and Edward – would rather a complete sale. However, without full control, it’s doubtful that the INEOS founder will get anywhere close to the family’s £6 billion valuation.
There is another hard deadline – Friday at 10pm GMT – for the next round of bids, which the Glazers and the Raine Group, who are overseeing the sale, have claimed will be the last chance for interested parties to submit their expressions of interest in acquiring Manchester United.
The latest plot twist would see Ratcliffe take on 51% ownership, with Avram and Joel Glazer retaining around a 20% stake if they accept the British billionaire’s bid.
The other main bidder, Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim, is thought to be steadfast in his desire to own 100% of the club, so he will need to stump up somewhere in the region of £6 billion in a bid to twist the Glazers’ arm.
Although they have supported their various managers with funds to improve the squad, the Glazers are almost universally detested by United fans after their leveraged buyout plunged the club into mountainous debt. Supporters will be livid if a deal goes through that allows the Americans to retain an interest, which is why Ratcliffe’s latest plot has not been met with great enthusiasm.
Could Anybody Else Make an Offer?
The Finnish businessman, Thomas Zilliacus, is thought to have made a bid to buy Manchester United, although he decided to withdraw that offer when the Glazers decided to open up a third round of bidding. It’s not known if he will return with a revised offer before Friday’s deadline.
“I will not participate in a farce set up to maximize the profit for the sellers at the expense of Manchester United,” were Zilliacus’ rather terse words.
Two American groups have come forward offering investment that would yield a minority stake – allowing the Glazers to retain the majority share. Elliott Management, who have previously invested in Italian club AC Milan, and Carlyle, one of the world’s largest private equity groups, are thought to be the two operations with an ongoing interest.
It’s not known if any other parties will make a bid, although with the final deadline looming there’s still time for fresh contenders to emerge that would rid Manchester United of the Glazers once and for all.