Football finance expert Kieran Maguire says the fourth bid for Manchester United from Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani is a publicity stunt.
The football club is being sold by the Glazer family, who have organised the process by putting on a dog and pony show akin to a depressing version of the X Factor.
After the first round of bidding some buyers were excluded, then a second round came and went when more fell by the wayside.
A third round of bids was supposed to be the decisive one, but instead of finally choosing between one of the two frontrunners, Sheikh Jassim or Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the Americans seemed to have moved into some sort of judges’ houses round in which they have held private meetings with both parties to see what more they can do to impress them.
During this process, Sheikh Jassim reportedly lodged an improved “take it or leave it” offer which valued the club at around $7bn.
However, the improvement on the third bid – the so-called “fourth bid” – reportedly came in relation to increased investment in infrastructure – repairing or replacing the Old Trafford stadium and improving facilities at the AON Training Complex at Carrington – rather than paying more per share, leading Maguire to speculate as to its purpose.
“The improved deal is still for 100 per cent of the club and includes guarantees to fund community projects, develop the stadium and rid the club of debt,” Maguire says via Football Insider.
“However, the offer values United lower than Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s offer to buy a majority stake in the club currently owned by the Glazer family.
“I find the latest proposal strange because it is effectively an increase in the value of the bid, but it doesn’t make any difference to the Glazers as they won’t benefit from it.
“There is an element of PR to this bid, and what we are seeing is selective leaked information by the press agencies working on behalf of the bidders.”
Maguire further comments that there is no “logical sense” to any of the numbers being reported.
The analyst thinks the Qatari prince wants to win public support for his vote by suggesting there will be £40 million less removed from the club each year that used to go to pay shareholder dividends. The implication is that it could be used for transfers, ground improvements or anything else related to football.
Likewise, removal of the debt means that the club’s coffers will no longer be emptied of the millions in interest that is currently paid on the debts leveraged by the Glazers.
Sheikh Jassim’s adversary in the process, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has not pledged to remove the debt and indeed has been reported to have already arranged for its transfer into his name. Likewise he has not specified any amount for investment in ground improvements.
He is also reportedly leaving the Glazers with a minority stake in the club, which has not gone down well with fans who want to see the back of football’s unpleasant and unsavoury answer to Simon Cowell.
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