It’s the outcome of their club’s takeover plot that Manchester United fans fear the most: not only the possibility of the Glazers clinging on to power, but them being fortified by a minority investment from elsewhere.
That is an outcome that is looking increasingly likely after the bidding war to wrestle the keys to Old Trafford away from the American family took a surprising twist yesterday.
Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the only two parties to have publicly made their interest in buying the club known, reportedly lodged bids of around £5 billion to the Glazers – closer to, but still short of, their £6 billion valuation.
And then things took a bizarre twist. The Raine Group, an American financial institution that also oversaw the sale of Chelsea, decided to extend the second deadline for bids by 48 hours – at which point Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe are said to have withdrew their offers.
However, the BBC are reporting that it was the Qatari banker and the Ineos founder that actually requested more time from Raine before lodging their formal offers.
The insinuation of the deadline extension is that more parties have made their interest known, with Raine wanting to open up the floor and attract bids closer to the £6 billion valuation. According to some media reports, as many as eight more offers could be lodged by the new deadline of 21:00 (GMT) on Friday.
An alternative plan that has not been taken off the table is that the Glazers will welcome a minority investment – ploughing new funds into the club but without them having to relinquish their own majority shareholding.
Who Will Buy Manchester United?
It has been implied that both Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe will return with improved bids before Friday’s deadline.
And a few other potential bidders have been identified. One of those is Elliott Management, an American hedge fund that is said to hold around £58 billion in assets and who have made their living on the back of taking on discounted debt – so-called ‘vulture funds’.
However, it’s not thought that Elliott Management seek a buyout of their own – they instead want to invest in the club, which means they could offer funds to Ratcliffe, who only wants to acquire the Glazers’ 69% shareholding, or instead simply write a cheque to the Glazers in return for a minority share.
According to The Mirror, Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus has expressed an interest in buying the club. He owns a number of different companies including XXI Century Capital and novaM Group, a social media platform that Zilliacus would facilitate a fan ownership model through.
“Any sport club ultimately should belong to its fans,” he said.
“The current development, where billionaire sheiks and oligarchs take over clubs and control them as their personal playgrounds, is not a healthy trend.”
Whoever wins out, the deal to acquire Manchester United will be the world’s most expensive buyout of a sports club – dwarfing the £3.75 billion paid by the Walton-Penner group for NFL outfit Denver Broncos in 2022.