Man United takeover expert Ben Jacobs thinks Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani could improve his £5bn bid to buy Manchester United.
After a flurry of activity earlier in the year in which Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe emerged as the leading contenders to buy United, there has been virtual silence for months.
It is generally accepted that this is a stand-off situation, with the club’s owners, the Glazers, holding out for a minimum of £6bn and the buyers insisting they will not budge, having already bid amounts well in excess of United’s true market value.
The stand off has led some reports to claim that the Glazers had changed their minds about selling at all, news which caused the share price to plummet 20% in a day.
However, subsequent reports claimed that the sale is still very much on but that no bid has yet met the owners’ valuation.
Following a poor start to the season, rumours have once again emerged saying that the prospective buyers will not increase their bids any further, but Jacobs believes this is a tactic.
“We’re just seeing a bit of a PR game,” Jacobs told GiveMeSport.
“Because Manchester United are not succeeding on the field, of course, the suitors are indicating that they don’t want to raise their value, which is something that they’ve said pretty consistently.
“The timing of sources indicating that neither group want to go higher, is obviously synced up with Manchester United’s poor run of form and that sends a message in the media that puts pressure on the Glazers to finally make up their minds as far as the groups are concerned.”
If Jacobs is correct, the consultants handling the sale for the American tycoons, the Raine Group, would presumably advise them to hold firm and not panic about the team’s progress.
Jacobs himself insists that Sheikh Jassim could increase his bid.
“So I still don’t think that we can rule out another bid from, in particular, Skeikh Jassim, simply because we got told after the final bid deadline in April, even though that was only a soft deadline, that that would be the last offer. Then we got told after the fourth bid that that would be the last offer then we got told after the fifth bid that that would be the last offer.
“Ultimately, if Sheikh Jassim in particular wants Manchester United, he may eventually have to pay what it takes, or certainly get closer to that £6bn number.”
What is interesting about Jacobs’ latest update is that it smacks of a message from the Glazers to the Sheikh. He is accusing the buyers of leaking stories to the press, yet his words could largely be interpreted as a leak coming the other way. The deal is being played out in the media. This is perhaps a good sign for fans, as it indicates that the Americans are getting desperate to get the sale done and trying to push Qatar into making another bid.
However, the problem with the Glazers’ hard stance is that football itself is taken out of the equation. The poor start to the season is one thing, but to simply choose to ride it out and expect the club’s value to remain stable is not a sound strategy from the Glazers. It is a massive gamble.
As their own credit limits prevent them from investing sufficient amounts into the club – both in terms of players and infrastructure – United are falling further and further behind their richer rivals and will soon no longer be considered an automatic top four side.
Everton are the latest club to be set for a major investment as 777 Partners close in on a takeover.
As Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool pull away from United in terms of spending power, the likes of Newcastle, Aston Villa and Everton are catching them up too and Spurs are starting to reap the rewards from their major infrastructure investments.
Add to the mix the success of well-run smaller clubs like Brighton and it is not unthinkable that the Glazers’ wait-it-out strategy will see their prize asset become a mid-table mediocre outfit. That, in turn, will deter sponsors and ultimately wipe billions off its share value.
It remains to be seen who blinks first, but this latest, seemingly innocuous report from Jacobs suggests that eyelids may be drooping and an end to this painfully drawn out saga may be closer than fans have become accustomed to thinking.