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Man Utd takeover: Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Qatar statement, Elon Musk latest and what happens next

Man Utd takeover: Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Qatar statement, Elon Musk latest and what happens next

The potential sale of  Manchester United  has moved a bit closer now that the deadline for bids has passed, and two interested parties have officially expressed their interest.

 Manchester United has been owned by Americans for almost 20 years, with this time period being split into two halves. The club’s fans have long been unhappy with the ownership, which was obtained through a leveraged buyout. 

The success of the team led by Sir Alex Ferguson covered up many of these issues for a long time, but since his departure in 2013, the problems have become more apparent. The absence of the Glazers is a concern, as they have handed the day-to-day management of the club to individuals who, for the most part, lacked the necessary experience – namely, Ed Woodward.

The team has not been very successful on the field, and the lack of investment in the Old Trafford and Carrington facilities has received significant criticism. There have been numerous protests about this issue, and the Glazers have recently announced their willingness to sell the club. Potential buyers from the UK, America, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the club.

Man Utd’s statement

In November, it was revealed that the club had started a process to investigate strategic options for the future. The Raine Group has been enlisted by Manchester United to act on their behalf during this process, and this company previously negotiated the £4.25bn sale of Chelsea in the summer.

United have said their move “is designed to enhance the club’s future growth, with the ultimate goal of positioning the club to capitalise on opportunities both on the pitch and commercially. As part of this process, the Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company.”

Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer have said in a joint statement: “The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers. As we seek to continue building on the Club’s history of success, the Board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives.

“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the Club today and in the future. Throughout this process we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans, shareholders, and various stakeholders.”

Who’s in the running?

One potential buyer for Manchester United is Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who is a United fan and the owner of the company INEOS. 

Sir Ratcliffe, who co-owns the Mercedes F1 team, is reportedly interested in expanding his sporting portfolio and has expressed a desire to invest in a football club. 

He has received a recommendation from former Manchester United player Gary Neville, who believes that Ratcliffe’s understanding of the club and its traditions could be a significant advantage. 

He said: “Jim Ratcliffe was born in Manchester and knows the area. If he wins it, I think there will be a lot of very happy Manchester United fans. He would want to do the right thing by the club – in fact I am sure that he would.”

Another potential buyer for Manchester United is Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, who is the chairman of one of the largest banks in Qatar. He has confirmed his intention to enter the race to buy the club.

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani is the son of former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. The deadline for interested parties to submit their bids was 10pm on Friday night, as the Raine Group, which is representing Manchester United, seeks to finalize its options.

Al Thani said in a statement: “Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani today confirmed his submission of a bid for 100 per cent of Manchester United Football Club. The bid plans to return the Club to its former glories both on and off the pitch, and – above all – will seek to place the fans at the heart of Manchester United Football Club once more.

“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the Club supports. The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world. More details of the bid will be released, when appropriate, if and when the bid process develops.”

There are concerns, particularly from the Premier League and Champions League, about whether a bid from Qatar for Manchester United would create problems due to the ownership of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). UEFA rules, known as the ‘Integrity of the UEFA Club competitions, Independence of clubs’, state that no two clubs competing in the same competition can be directly or indirectly controlled by the same ownership group. This could pose a challenge if the same group were to own both Manchester United and PSG.

It is expected that bidders from the United States and Saudi Arabia will also come forward to buy Manchester United. Currently, four of the traditional “top six” Premier League clubs – Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea – are owned by firms or individuals from the United States. 

Last season, Newcastle was purchased by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), and their investment has been credited with the club’s recent success. 

According to reports from The Telegraph, multiple private groups in Riyadh have made formal inquiries about buying Manchester United. 

Even Elon Musk has expressed interest in potentially entering the bidding process, as the billionaire CEO of Twitter and SpaceX weighs up his options.

What happens next?

The interested buyers who have come forward will now enter what is known as a “data room,” where they will be able to view the relevant financial information about Manchester United, according to the Manchester Evening News. 

After reviewing the club’s finances and debts, the potential buyers will then be required to submit their bids. However, the Glazer family, who currently own Manchester United, have been criticized for taking dividends out of the club despite major financial issues. In the year leading up to June 30, 2022, the club’s net debt increased by 22.7% from £419.5 million to £514.9 million.

Ten Hag’s take

Manchester United’s recent success has been largely attributed to Erik ten Hag, the Dutch manager who arrived from Ajax in the summer and has been supported financially. Under his leadership, the club has a strong chance of winning the Carabao Cup and a return to the Champions League seems likely, leading to increased optimism.

 However, while there is ongoing speculation about a potential sale of the club, Ten Hag has remained focused on football, stating that the club’s ownership situation is not his area of concern. Any potential investment in the club could result in increased capital that could be used to improve both on-field and off-field resources.

It is believed that the Glazer family may not have sufficient financial resources to address the areas of the club that require investment, and therefore, they may need to secure additional funds to remain in control. Erik ten Hag, the Manchester United manager, has expressed his belief that any investment in the club would be beneficial, as it could provide the necessary resources to improve various aspects of the club.

He said previously: “My information is that it will only be good things because there will be more investment possible. We spoke about the culture we want, we spoke about objectives, goals and the culture and he [Arnold] confirmed it won’t change, it will be even better because more money will become available for this project.”

Share price on the rise

It’s worth noting that the current market capitalization of Manchester United is around £2.6 billion, as of February 18th, 2023. 

While the share price has certainly seen a notable rise since the news of a potential sale broke, it’s unclear what the ultimate sale price for the club will be, and it’s possible that the Glazers’ reported asking price of £5bn could prove to be too high for any interested buyers.

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