Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe made their third and final bid to buy Manchester United on Friday. Sheikh Jassim is in a bidding war with Ratcliffe after the pair emerged as top contenders to buy the Premier League club from the Glazer family.
While Sheikh Jassim’s latest offer is reported to be in excess of £5bn ($6.2bn), the size of Ratcliffe’s enhanced offer had not yet been made public when Friday’s deadline for the third round of bidding happened at 2100 GMT. Sources said Sheikh Jassim’s offer for 100 percent control of the club comes with the promise of significant additional funding for transfers and infrastructure.
The spending would include redeveloping United’s old Old Trafford stadium or building a new ground, along with renovating the club’s training facilities.
Sheikh Jassim’s offer also promises to erase United’s $620 million debt. The founder of chemical company INEOS, Ratcliffe, a childhood United fan who failed to buy Chelsea last year, reportedly wants to buy a majority stake in United of more than 50 percent.
That would allow United co-CEOs Joel and Avram Glazer to remain shareholders with a 20 percent stake, raising concerns among a fan base weary of the Americans’ controversial reign.
The Glazers reportedly want a world record fee of GBP 6bn for a sports club before agreeing to sell the Old Trafford outfit, raising the possibility that they won’t take up Sheikh Jassim’s offer or Ratcliffe’s approach.
Deeply unpopular with fans since saddled the club with debt in a GBP790m leveraged buyout in 2005, the Glazers looked poised to cash in on a huge profit when they first invited outside investment in November.
However, Elliot Investment Management and The Carlyle Group are among the private equity firms in the market for a minority stake that could allow the Glazers to retain control and provide the funds to invest in the club’s infrastructure.
Avram and Joel Glazer are reportedly keen to keep their United stakes, while brothers and fellow directors Kevin, Bryan and Edward Glazer and Darcie Glazer Kassewitz are set to divest their shares.
Bids in the latest round of bidding, a process carried out for the Glazers by New York commercial bank Raine Group, are believed to have been worth a maximum of £5bn.
That would have broken the Premier League record of GBP 2.5bn paid by Chelsea last year for a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital, with an additional GBP 1.75bn pledged in investment in infrastructure and players. .
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) has called for a swift conclusion to the process to allow the new owners to be available for the summer transfer window.
“We urgently need new investment, which certainly requires new ownership. MUST, together with United fans around the world, are calling for this process to be concluded without further delay,” the fan group said in a statement. United fans are believed to be planning a protest against the Glazers ahead of Sunday’s game against Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
decade of decline
Under Glazer ownership, United have been in steady decline on and off the pitch over the past decade.
The Red Devils have not won the Premier League title since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, while the club’s revenues have lagged behind local rivals Manchester City and Liverpool due to a lack of regular league football. Champions League and the lack of modernization of Old Trafford.
But they are enjoying a renaissance under Erik ten Hag this season, having ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup in February. They will also face Manchester City in the FA Cup final on June 3.