Manchester United supporters and the football world are waiting to know the club’s new owners as Friday’s “soft” deadline for submitting offers draws near.
The Glazer family, who own United, is considering selling the the club as they “examine strategic alternatives.” One of the wealthiest men in Britain, billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has only made one public interest thus far. After several days of rumors, it’s anticipated that the Qatari group would submit a proposal.
Also, at least two offers from the United States are expected, and Saudi Arabia may show interest, according to some reports. This means that there may be up to five parties attempting to take over control of the club, with others seeking to make a smaller investment in exchange for a partial takeover of the Old Trafford Club. The Glazer family is still examining “all strategic possibilities” for the club, which might include extra investment or other transactions involving the corporation, as they mentioned in their announcement on a potential sale in November.
One of the wealthiest men in Britain and a lifelong supporter of United, Ratcliffe, is also in contention to buy the club and known to have employed the services of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. Like Chelsea, US interest will likely be aided by a private equity. Due to their respective ownership of Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle, bids from Qatar and Saudi Arabia are problematic. The US-based Raine Group, which has been responsible with seeking new owners or investors, had scheduled a final round of bidding for March.
Even though he might not have any direct involvement in the club, Nasser al-Khelaifi, the president of Paris St. Germain, is expected to play a significant role in any Qatari takeover proposal. Under Uefa regulations that prohibit multi-team ownership, Qatar Sports Investment (QSI), led by Al-Khelaifi, had been considering the possibility of buying a lesser part in a Premier League club. QSI already owns a small stake of the Portuguese team Braga, but any Qatari attempt to buy United in its entirety would have to go through private individuals or a different organization given that QSI already owns PSG, which it has no interest in selling.
This might be the Qatar Investment Authority, a global investment platform whose portfolio includes the UK’s tallest building, the Shard, and the London department store Harrods. Given that many believe that Qataris disburse money from a single source, in which Uefa, the European governing body, may consider changing its regulations on dual ownership. The possibility of Qatari involvement in a Premier League club as well as the ownership of two important European teams has raised concerns for some Human rights group Fair Square has written to Ceferin, copying in Premier League chief Richard Masters, “to highlight several issues of serious concern” after reports that “entities linked to the Qatari government are proposing a bid that would enable them to take a controlling stake in Manchester United”.
The letter continues: “In line with Uefa’s rules aimed at protecting the integrity of its competitions, we would urge Uefa to outline a clear public position prohibiting any takeover of this nature. “No consortium of Qatari investors capable of such an acquisition would be able to demonstrate their independence from the Qatari state.”
The £305 million Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United in 2021, which was only finalized after the league acquired “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi state would not run the club, would serve as a precedent for the Premier League. Uefa has declined to comment but recently expressed concern about the potential “material threat” of multi-club ownership to the integrity of club competitions. In 2017 Uefa did allow RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig to play in the Champions League, despite both clubs being associate of drinks giant Red Bull. Once the time has gone, neither the Raine Group nor Manchester United are likely to issue a formal comment. The Glazer family will decide whether to move forward with a full sale.
The Glazer family members who have been seen as most motivated to maintain some stake are co-chairmen Joel and Avi Glazer. Although there are expectations that there will be a take-over at the end of the season, the original goal had been to do it by the end of March. United are yet to make a statement on the sale of the club, but tradition dictates that Richard Arnold, the club’s CEO, will answer questions from investors when the team releases its second quarter financial results sometime next month.