Opinions are divided and fans are concerned over the source of funding of whoever will eventually buy Manchester United. The controversies are coming at a time when all offers are expected on the table, ahead of the mid-February deadline set by the Glazers.
Manchester United owners, the Glazer family, announced in November that they were “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives for the club”. These strategic alternatives, as they outlined, included a full sale of the club.
The news attracted massive interest from groups all over the world with British billionaire, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, declaring an interest to take over the club. But he’s not the only one showing an interest, although the others haven’t made their intentions public.
The Glazer family are thought to be willing to sell for £5 billion but the interest in the club could drive the price up. New York-based bank Raine Group, which is managing the sale, believes the asking price is now between £6-8 billion.
What is involved in the bidding process?
Those who wish to buy Manchester United are expected to submit a one-paragraph-only offer, disclosing their bid, and the percentage of the club they wish to take. Proof of funds will also have to be attached. This is the first process and is expected to be concluded by next Friday, February 17th.
When all the bids are in, the battle will move to the next stage, which is likely to be the most intense. Here, Raine will see the offers reduced to around two or three most serious contenders.
They will then face off in a race to become the preferred bidder. At that stage, full access to United’s financials will be granted, to allow better decision-making.
United is valued at around £6 billion, and should the bidders not meet the Glazer family’s valuation of the club, the Americans could head down the investment route. But a full sale is most preferred.
Who are the other interested parties?
There are likely bids from Sir Jim Ratcliffe, USA and Saudi Arabia, alongside Qatari investors.
In the meantime, Sir Jim Ratcliffe remains the only named suitor. Just a year ago, the Ineos CEO was said to have expressed interest to buy United.
Ratcliffe has acquired the services of banking giants, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs to assist him in his bid to become the owner of one the world’s biggest clubs. JP Morgan worked with the Glazers when they bought United in a £790m leveraged buyout in 2005. Ed Woodward was at JP Morgan at the time and worked on the deal.
There is also said to be some interest from Saudi Arabia – which is separate from the Public Investment Fund which holds an 80 per cent majority stake in Newcastle.
The Qatar group, separate from Qatar Sports Investments QSI who own Paris Saint-Germain, are now stepping up their efforts ahead of bid submission next week. But it must be proven that both clubs would be controlled by different groups and personnel.
What are United fans’ views on the bidders?
The takeover links from Qatar have intensified this week, and it has already divided the fanbase.
Some supporters have suggested a walk away if it happens, while others have simply expressed displeasure over the prospects.
United fans have since longed for new owners, following claims that the Glazers are not devoted to the club. But it is going to be bittersweet and emotionally conflicting if the sale brings the arrival of owners of the ‘ilk of Qatar’, who many think would use United as merely a vehicle for a sports washing project.
A successful bid from the Qatari group would see the two Manchester clubs on opposite sides of the Qatar-Abu Dhabi rivalry. It would also see Qatari-owned United go up against Saudi-owned Newcastle. There could be a middle-eastern rivalry brewing amongst 3 of the current top 4 sides in the premier league.
Ratcliffe’s bid might be the most palatable option to large numbers of Man United supporters. He is currently the owner of Nice, and so has experience in football. He is also a lifelong United fan, and that makes his offer all the more appealing. He would have the power to make significant changes on and off the pitch if he were to be successful.
Events of the next few months would be pivotal to the future of the club – If they’re going to plunge deeper into debt and mediocrity, or get better on and off the pitch.
For some fans, just any owner would be better than the Glazers, but for others, not just any owner is enough, but one they can be proud of.