The Glazer family’s controversial ownership of Manchester United looks set to rumble on after the latest developments in the Premier League club’s protracted takeover bid.
Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani’s Qatar-backed bid and an offer from Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group were the main contenders to buy the club, either outright or partially from its current owners.
The Glazers have endured a tempestuous relationship with United fans since their leveraged buyout takeover at Old Trafford in 2005 and confirmed in November that they were exploring the possibility of a sale.
Despite Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus claiming to still to be in the running despite not making a fresh bid for the final deadline and several investors reported to have taken an interest in acquiring a minority stake, it effectively appeared to be a battle between Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe.
Who are the final bidders who want to buy Manchester United from the Glazers?
Widespread reports on October 14 said that Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani had withdrawn from the bidding process for Manchester United.
Transfer news expert Fabrizio Romano claimed that the final bid had been worth almost double the $3.5 billion market valuation of the club, and said the Sheikh had planned an extra $1.5bn of investment. Sky News was among the outlets to announce that they also understood the offer had been withdrawn.
The Daily Mail had reported on June 7 that Sheikh Jassim had launched a fifth and final revised bid to buy Manchester United, with a deadline of June 9 for further negotiations.
The offer, while a potential world record for a sports team, fell short of the Glazers’ £6bn valuation but would have represented a clean break from their era if successful.
According to a tweet from Qatari media outlet Al Watan on June 12, that bid was accepted. There has not yet been any response from United, the Glazers, or Raine Group — the bank appointed by the American family to oversee a potential takeover — to this claim.
نجاح صفقة استحواذ الشيخ جاسم بن حمد بن جاسم على #مانشستر_يونايتد.. وإعلان الصفقة قريبا#جريدة_الوطن_القطرية #الدوحة #قطر pic.twitter.com/3ZEpxmbdYO
— جريدة الوطن (@al_watanQatar) June 12, 2023
Then, on June 15, United fans on social media were caught up in another wave of excitement after it was noticed that Nine Two UK Holdings Limited had been registered as a UK company, with Sheikh Jassim as one of two directors. The Nine Two Foundation was established by the Qatari banker to front his takeover bid.
According to ESPN’s Mark Ogden, Joel and Avram Glazer, the most hands-on members of United’s owning family, are “increasingly confident” of securing the outside investment that would allow them to stay on at the club and wait for its value to increase in the coming years — perhaps to as much as $12.4 billion over the next decade.
In this context, Ratcliffe’s bid for a majority stake might also hold greater appeal than that of Sheikh Jassim. The Ineos bid was for just over 50% of United, with the Glazers remaining a 20% stake.
In the aftermath of Sheikh Jassim’s withdrawal, Mail Online reported Ratcliffe had reached an agreement to buy 25% of United in $1.57bn deal that would see his group take control of football operations and be viewed as the first step in a staged buyout.
Even if the family do become a minority in overall terms, a mechanism built into United’s stock could see the Glazer family retain a key decision-making influence in the event of Ratcliffe being successful.
Shares are split into two categories, Class B and Class A. Class B shares can only be held by the Glazer family and automatically convert into Class A stock if they are sold. Class B shares also carry 10 times more weight than Class A shares when it comes to voting rights.
The club’s latest financial results also make for worrying reading for potential buyers. United’s overall debt rose to £535.7m/$662.5m, based on financial figures for the end of 2022, in an increase of £58.6m/$72.4m from the previous year, with club-wide revenues down by 10%.
Do the Glazers want to sell Manchester United?
Following the initial rumours in November 2022, United and the Glazers released a statement to address the situation, and they are open to a direct sale.
“The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” the statement said.
“As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives.
“The board will consider all strategic alternatives. That includes new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company.”
The key element of this statement was that the Glazers always made it clear that a full sale was not their only interest, and that “all strategic alternatives” were on the table. The American family is now looking more likely to sell a minority stake in the club and retain overall control, which has encouraged interest from the likes of Carlyle.
What is Manchester United price?
Following the Glazers’ announcement, there was a fluctuation on United’s stock and company valuation, as the financial markets reacted to the news.
The expectation is that a lower price will be negotiated as part of takeover talks, with reports from the Financial Times estimating the club has an overall worth of around $3.5 billion, despite previous estimates of over $4bn. However, it’s thought the Glazers want to hold out for in excess of $6bn — a figure that was reportedly been surpassed by Sheikh Jassim’s final bid, which was said to be closer to $7.5bn.
According to reports in April, Joel and Avram Glazer believe the club could be worth as much as $12.4bn in the coming decade if they retain control and bring in the external investment they seek.
Is anyone else trying to buy Manchester United?
Thomas Zilliacus was a relatively late entrant to the takeover drama and sought to win over support on social media by proposing a Bundesliga-style ownership whereby he would buy 100% of United before selling shares back to the fans. He has also spoken publicly of his frustration with the Glazers’ delay tactics.
Jim Ratcliffe, sheik Jassim and myself all were ready to negotiate a deal to buy United. Instead Glazers chose to start a new round. I will not participate in a farce set up to maximize the profit for the sellers at the expense of Manchester United.
— Thomas Zilliacus (@TZilliacus) April 12, 2023
Elliott Investment Management, the US hedge fund that oversaw the sale of AC Milan in 2018, also launched an 11th-hour proposal prior to the initial deadline. However, Elliott’s offer reportedly looks a little different: rather than an offer to buy the club, it is a financing proposal, either to facilitate another bid or to allow the Glazers to retain control. Carlyle’s interest is similarly aimed at a minority stake.
BBC Sport reported that the third deadline did not apply to such investment vehicles only in the running for a minority stake.
When did the Glazers buy Manchester United?
The Glazers’ connection with United stretches back to 2003, following their initial purchase of club shares through a 2.9% stake at Old Trafford.
That was followed up by gradual share increases year by year up until 2005, where they purchased a controlling stake from former owners JP McManus and John Magnier.
How much did the Glazers pay for Manchester United?
Following a rapid buying of shares in the summer of 2005, the Glazers completed a full takeover before the start of the 2005/06 season, with an estimated full purchase price of around £790 million ($1.5bn).
To finance the takeover, the family loaded some of the debt onto the club, putting them in the red for the first time since the 1930s.
It is the club’s debt level, coupled with the Glazers taking millions in dividend payments each year while substantially reducing investment into certain areas of the club — such as the stadium — that has fuelled much of the anger towards their ownership among fans.
Is Qatar buying Manchester United?
Buoyed by the global interest in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Sheikh Jassim’s group were interested only in a full takeover of United, not a minority stake.
They were claimed to boast financial might that would leave almost any other competing parties unable to rival their bid.
On February 17, Sheikh Jassim confirmed he had lodged an official bid. Their plans are understood to include making a significant amount of additional capital and infrastructure investment.
Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani bid in for 100% of Manchester United ???????? #MUFC
“The offer aims to restore the club to its former glory, both on and off the pitch, and will focus on putting fans back at the heart of Manchester United Football Club”.
As the United sale saga continued, Sheikh Jassim increased his takeover offer to closer to £5bn, as per reports from BBC Sport. The improved bid was put forward by negotiators the Raine Group, on May 16, as the Sheikh looks to gain an edge over Ratcliffe. A new bid was launched on June 7 as a final push to give him the advantage.
The reports of Sheikh Jassim’s eventual withdrawal claimed he put forward an offer of double United’s $3.5bn valuation on the New York Stock Exchange, with a further $1.5bn ringfenced for footballing and infrastructural investment.
Is the Dubai Wealth Fund buying Manchester United?
Links with a state-backed purchase are relatively new, with Dubai officials open to joining their neighbouring states in purchasing a major football club.
A report from the Daily Mirror in November 2022 claimed the Dubai leadership are working on an investment portfolio involving private investors, after being put on ‘red alert’ by the Glazers’ announcement. However, since then no developments have come to fruition, at least not publicly.
Is Sir Jim Ratcliffe buying Manchester United?
On January 17, 2023, Ratcliffe’s firm Ineos officially declared an interest in buying United. With the Glazer family looking to sell, Ineos said the company had “formally put ourselves into the process.”
They then backed their interest up officially on February 8, announcing they had made an offer for a “majority ownership” of the club. The latest developments suggest this move will, at least initially, be scaled back.
Official: INEOS confirm bid submitted for Man Utd ???????? #MUFC
“Sir Jim Ratcliffe-INEOS made a bid for majority ownership of Manchester United.
“We see role as long-term custodians of Man Utd — invest to make it the number one club in the world again & win the Chanpions League”. pic.twitter.com/0pa0l6y5xE
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) February 18, 2023
Ratcliffe, who lodged an unsuccessful £4.25bn offer to buy Chelsea last year, is currently ranked the 27th wealthiest person in the UK on the Sunday Times Rich List.
The 69-year-old was born in Oldham, Greater Manchester, and grew up supporting the club.
Ratcliffe founded chemical company Ineos in 1998 and this has allowed him to build an estimated net worth of £12 billion ($14.4m).
He has previously declared his interest in buying United should the opportunity arise, and his late bid to purchase Chelsea underlined his readiness to pounce in a difficult market.
Outside football, Ratcliffe also purchased the Team Sky cycling franchise in 2019, which was rebranded to INEOS Grenadiers. The company also has sponsorship deals with Mercedes AMG F1 and the All Blacks.
NEW | 1st pictures of British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe arrives at Old Trafford with Ineos delegation to be met by Manchester United chief exec Richard Arnold for talks over potential takeover #ManUtd #ineos ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/XzxYFobbWJ
— Dan Roan (@danroan) March 17, 2023
Premier League 2023/24 TV channels, live streams
|Hong Kong||—||Now TV|
|India||Star Sports||Disney+, Hotstar,
|Malaysia||Astro SuperSport||Astro Go|
|New Zealand||Sky Sport||Sky Sport Now,
|UK||Sky Sports, TNT Sport||NOW TV, Sky Go,
UK: Matches are carried across Sky Sports and TNT Sport streaming and TV platforms, with select matches on Amazon Prime.
USA: Select matches are televised on USA Network (English) and Telemundo or Universo (Spanish), and all three channels can be streamed on Fubo. The rest of the matches are streamed on NBC platform Peacock for subscribers.
Canada: Every Premier League game this season is live streaming exclusively via Fubo in Canada.
Australia: Fans in Australia can stream every match live and on demand on Optus Sport.
India: Star Sports network has the rights to show Premier League matches in India. As well as an English broadcast on Star Sports Select, select matches will be available via regional feeds on Star Sports 3 (in Bengali, English, Kannada, Malayalam), Star Sports 1 (Bangla) and Star Sports 1 (Tamil).