Man United takeover: Who are the bidders who want to buy Man Utd from the Glazers?
For Manchester United fans, 2023 looks set to be a year for celebration, regardless of the team’s efforts on the pitch.
The Glazer family, hated owners of the club since 2005, are widely expected to sell United in the coming months.
Last November, the Americans announced that they would “pursue all strategic alternatives, including new investments in the club, a sale or other transactions involving the company”. It was the first time they had publicly backed the sale of the club they took over in a highly controversial leveraged buyout nearly 20 years ago.
Those interested in buying United were given a soft deadline to confirm their plans until February 17. Raine Group, which brokered Todd Boehly’s takeover of Chelsea from Roman Abramovich and is charged with the United sale, asked all potential buyers to submit a one-paragraph bid that included proof of financing.
These are the numbers that are believed to be in the running.
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Sir Jim Ratcliffe
The British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe comes from Oldham, is a fan of Manchester United and already owns two football clubs with his company Ineos, OGC Nice and Lausanne-Sport, as well as the Formula 1 team Mercedes.
After expressing interest in buying Chelsea, Ratcliffe was welcomed as a potential investor by the Manchester United Supporters Trust and there were even suggestions that F1 great Lewis Hamilton could be involved in the bid. He is one of the few to go public with his interest in buying the Old Trafford club.
Ratcliffe, whose personal wealth topped £20 billion three years ago, is said to be working with JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs to structure a proposed takeover package.
Businessman Michael Knighton, who attempted to buy Man United in 1989, was also tipped to become part of a consortium with Ratcliffe.
It has been widely reported in the past week that a Qatari investor group, likely with ties to the Qatari royal family, is ready to bid for the club.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is a United supporter and is speculated to be pushing for investor rapprochement.
There is a complication with any Qatari offer: Qatar Sports Investments already own Paris Saint-Germain and UEFA rules would ban the same group from owning United should both clubs play in the Champions League. Therefore, any Qatari consortium bidding for United would need to be able to prove that it is an entity other than QSI.
There is a feeling that the wealth behind any bid from Qatar would dwarf that of almost any other interested party. Indeed, it was speculated that significant funds would be made available immediately to modernize Old Trafford, revitalize the club’s training facilities and strengthen Erik ten Hag’s men’s first-team squad. Kylian Mbappe has already been linked with the club.
However, given the well-documented concerns about the country’s human rights record, which were widely discussed around the time of the World Cup in Qatar last November, there is likely to be at least some opposition from fans to the idea of Qatari ownership.
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According to the Daily Mail, billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk is keeping abreast of developments regarding the United acquisition.
Musk has tweeted in the past that he wants to buy the club, so fans have taken his expression of interest with a pinch of salt. However, it is easy to understand the appeal.
After buying Twitter for around $44 billion, Musk’s personal fortune is said to have plummeted over the past year due to the poor performance of Tesla stock, but he’s still valued at nearly $190 billion. Taking on what is arguably the world’s most famous sports team would provide obvious appeal to the SpaceX supremo, who has rarely chosen to avoid the chance to raise his public profile.
It has been suggested that he could work with investors from Saudi Arabia to increase the financial strength of a takeover bid.
Josh Harris and David Blitzer
Premier League club Crystal Palace’s minority shareholders, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, were asked to make an offer from United back in January.
Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment was among those who had struggled to acquire Chelsea from Abramovich and the prospect of becoming a shareholder in United would be enticing.
However, any offer from Harris and Blitzer is expected to be for a minority stake in the club, allowing the Glazers to remain in control. Such an arrangement would be deeply unpopular with fans, who would like to see the Glazer family relinquish their hold on the club entirely.
How much is Manchester United worth?
The Independent reported that the Glazers could seek to sell all of their shares for around $6 billion (£4.9 billion), although that number has fluctuated in various reports in recent weeks.
That would far exceed the sum paid for Chelsea, which perhaps accurately reflects United’s status as England’s most prestigious football club.
It is also likely to price out a number of potential bidders, including many of those involved in the battle to take over Chelsea in the summer.