By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has entered the race to take over Manchester United as the Glazer family consider a partial or full sale of the club.
The controversial owners bought the Old Trafford giants in a debt-funded takeover in 2005 and have since taken millions of pounds out of the Old Trafford outfit.
What is the situation with the Glazers?
Club statement on a process to explore strategic options for Manchester United.#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 22, 2022
There has been widespread anger, frustration and protests since the Glazers’ leveraged deal landed the club in debt in 2005, costing millions in interest payments and dividends at a time when success on the pitch has dried up. However, a November 22nd statement brought fans hope of a fresh start as United confirmed the board “will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”. Executive co-chairmen Avram and Joel Glazer added that they were looking to “maximise the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future”.
Why would the Glazers cash in now?
The statement followed Liverpool’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, in making it known their club is for sale, meaning England’s two most successful teams on the pitch and most marketable assets off it are both on the market. It comes at a time when the failure of both the European Super League and Project Big Picture thwarted attempts by the so-called big clubs to take greater control over football.
And with Newcastle forcing their way into the competition for the limited number of Champions League places after their Saudi-backed takeover, plus the price paid last year for Chelsea, both the Glazers and FSG appear to think now is the time to cash in. At United there is an overdue need for investment in Old Trafford and the Carrington training complex on top of backing Erik ten Hag’s improving side.
What has happened since November’s announcement?
The Raine Group is acting as United’s exclusive financial advisor and is in charge of the ongoing process. The US-based investment banking firm has already overseen the sale of one Premier League club in the past year, having whittled down more than 250 expressions of interest in Chelsea to a handful of serious bids before Todd Boehly’s takeover. That sale moved quickly due to the unique circumstances left by the sanctions placed on former owner Roman Abramovich.
What is the potential timescale?
The Raine Group is looking to keep the process with United moving as quickly as possible, with the first quarter of the year recognised as a key time. Prospective investors need to demonstrate seriousness in a swift process, leading to suggestions that United could even be under new ownership by the end of the 2022-23 season.
Who has announced their interest in United?
Having failed with a last-ditch £4.25billion bid for Chelsea last year, Ratcliffe – one of the UK’s richest men – is the only prospective buyer to make his interest public. The 70-year-old, who was born in Failsworth and supported United growing up, founded INEOS, with a spokesman for the global chemical company confirming to PA on Tuesday they had “formally put ourselves into the process”. INEOS already owns Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss Super League team FC Lausanne-Sport, plus holds interests in sailing, cycling, rugby union and Formula One.
What other interest is there in United?
With INEOS (led by Sir Jim Ratcliffe) confirming they will bid for @ManUtd, we remind him what over 100 supporter orgs are looking for from new owners. CEO Richard Arnold said "fans will be integral...under any ownership model". This letter is what that looks like. #MUFC https://t.co/B9YYiSiTn2
— M.U.S.T (@MU_ST) January 17, 2023
As well as Ratcliffe’s interest, bids are expected from the Middle East, Asia and the United States. Avram Glazer reportedly spoke to potential investors in Qatar during the World Cup and United currently have a pop-up shop in Davos during this week’s World Economic Forum annual meeting. United fans will hope for better owners than the Glazers, but supporters’ trust chief executive Duncan Drasdo warned last November that they could yet “be stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire”.
How much might United sell for?
After Boehly and his group paid £2.5bn for Chelsea last year, there has been a rapid recalculation of what the Premier League’s top clubs might be worth. Football finance expert Kieran Maguire has said that, based on a comparison with Chelsea’s revenues, profitability and assets, United would be worth around £4-4.5bn, with a reasonable expectation that a possible bidding war would push the price up to £5bn.