Home » Who is really bidding to buy or invest in Manchester United?

Who is really bidding to buy or invest in Manchester United?

by Red Billy

Reports around potential investment in Manchester United are coming thick and fast this week and the landscape has become quite confusing.

United’s current controlling shareholders, the Glazer family, are forced to either sell the club altogether or get new minority shareholders as they have reached the extent of the credit they can draw on to finance the club.

They have put a company called the Raine Group in charge of the process to find new investors. The Raine group have demanded that all bids are submitted by 17th February – next Friday – with a view to the sale or partial sale being complete by the end of March.

Various figures have been bandied about in regard to the asking price for a full sale. Commonly it is reported that the Glazers are asking for between $6 – $8 billion, but other sources have said the real figure is more like $5 billion.

Ineos, headed by Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, have declared their intention to bid and still remain the only confirmed bidder. However, sources close to Ratcliffe have insisted he will not pay over the odds for the club, with around $4 billion seen as a more realistic figure.

If they were to take over the club their ownership of OG Nice would have to be resolved as Uefa will not allow two clubs under the same ownership to compete in the same competitions.

Early favourites Dubai have been said recently to be highly unlikely to make the investment as United Arab Emirates are not financially strong enough at the moment and are “propped up by funds from Abu Dabi”. However, Avram Glazer has been seen meeting with Dubai dignitaries recently, which fuelled speculation.

Potential Qatar investment is causing a lot of confusion in the press. There are two sovereign (state owned) organisations being mentioned, the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and the Qatar Sports Investments (QSI). QSI is the body that owns Paris Saint Germain.

Multiple reports have stated that QSI might be interested in a minority stake in United but nothing more, because they remain committed to PSG and don’t want a conflict of interest.

That minority stake is more likely to be as part of a consortium that buys United from the Glazers, rather than as a minority stake with the Glazers still in charge.

QIA on the other hand is reported on Wikipedia and by The Times to be the parent body of QSI (although Ben Jacobs says this is not the case and that they are two separate entities). Reports suggest that another fund from within it could make a bid for an outright sale without there being any conflict with QSI’s ownership of PSG. They are said to be “assessing the market”.

“QSI is a subsidiary of the Qatar Investment Authority, the state-run sovereign-wealth fund, and therefore ultimately under the control of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Quite how another fund with a link to the Qatari royals could become the new United owner under those present Uefa regulations remains to be seen,” The Times neatly puts it.

There have also been reports of a group of private Qatari investors planning to make a bid.

So, in short, from Qatar there are three potential investments: QSI potentially coming in as a partial investor, another QIA sovereign fund subsidiary buying outright and a private investment group buying outright.

United Muppetiers have claimed that there are also three American groups preparing bids, Harris Blitzer Sports Entertainment (HBSE), a sports and entertainment holding company, the co-chairman of Bain Capital and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, Steve Pagliuca and an unnamed third bidder.

There have also been multiple reports of an unnamed Saudi Arabian investor being in the mix and The Times says “there are also claims of possible bids from countries such as China and Singapore in addition to the Middle East.”

Other names that have been mentioned, such as Apple, the Ortega family and Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani are almost certainly all wide of the mark.


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