The Race To Sell Manchester United

Since 2005, after 18 years of ownership, the Glazer family are now looking to finally move the club on.

The Glazer’s publicly announced the club was up for sale in November 2022, the Raine group banking firm were hired to conduct the process.

From their arrival, the Glazers have been reluctant to let go of the club despite severe backlash from fans through various protests. Such protests amplified to the point where fans broke into Old Trafford on a matchday, and got a huge game against Liverpool called off.

However, only now have the Glazers finally decided to sell the club.

Although, doubts remain over Co Executive Chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer’s real motives, and their potential reluctance to let go of the club, clashing with the other family members.

Why sell now?

With Manchester United seemingly on the rise with new manager Erik ten Hag, some may question why the Glazer’s would now sell up after sticking through years of unsuccessful tenures.

Ultimately, this decision stems from their overall approach in running the club the past 18 years. After five years without a trophy, before Ten Hag’s arrival, United were drowning.

The reliance on their own name and brand for sponsorships and advertising was failing. This combined with fans unified attempts to increase pressure upon the owners by bombarding associated companies with bad reviews.

This has been successful as United are no longer a steady club with secure growth, and thus United’s headline sponsor Team Viewer have cut their sponsorship period down. Therefore, United’s cash reserves have been depleting.

Despite spending significantly, the Glazer’s have adopted a business like approach to the club, which aims to prioritise the marketing potential over footballing ability. Subsequently, the Glazer’s never invested into the club, just spending the vast revenues United would make.

However, with these revenues depleting, the club is no longer self-sufficient to run off its own profits, and thus the Glazer’s are looking to sell before the club begins to crumble.

Why fans dislike the Glazers

Since their arrival, fans have protested against their purchase of the club.

Initially this derives from how the Glazer’s bought the club. In 2005, prior to the purchase, the club was debt free.

However, with the ‘leveraged buyout’ of the club, around £550m worth of debt was used to finance the purchase.

Crucially, rather than loading it onto their own finances, this was put onto the club. Since then, this figure has steadily grown and has never been paid off.

Furthermore, the Glazer’s dividend policy has been a big part of why fans are annoyed.

In their time as owners, the Glazer’s have been taking consistent dividends out of the club. This combined with interest and debt payments and repayments means the Glazers have taken out around £1.1 billion from the club in their 18 year stint, financing nothing.

Finally, due to the financial approach to the club, this has meant the Glazer’s have appointed businessmen like Ed Woodward, rather than imposing a proper footballing structure.

As a result, United have consistently made poor decisions when buying and selling players. The club would overpay for players who weren’t good enough, rewarding them with huge contracts. Subsequently, when these players failed and United looked to move them on, they couldn’t, because no-one else would pay them nearly as much.

Ultimately, fans have gradually got increasingly annoyed at the way the club has been run, which has led to a rapid rise in protests and hostility towards the American owners.

Who are the potential buyers

With the Glazers looking for around £5 billion for the club, this leaves few businesses that can actually afford the club.

However, although some companies haven’t gone public, these are the likely options:

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe
  • Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Al Thani
  • Saudia Arabian bid
  • US groups

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of INEOS, has a big chance of buying Manchester United. The British businessmen was a former United fan who attended the clubs historic Champions League victory in 1999.

Therefore, Ratcliffe is a popular candidate, particularly among the older demographics, as it’s perceived he would understand the club’s identity and what it’s about.

His purchase of the club would be through Goldman Sachs who will loan some money to finance the majority buyout. However, this, despite sounding similar to the Glazers buyout of United, is different as the debt will be put on INEOS and not Manchester United.

Ratcliffe already owns French football club OGC Nice, but has failed to have the desired effect, struggling to push them up the league table. Therefore, there is doubts over Ratcliffe’s potential ownership, and if he would impose the right structure to take the club forward.

In an Ineos statement, they said:

“We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community.”

“We are ambitious and highly competitive and would want to invest in Manchester United to make them the number one club in the world once again.”

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Al Thani, is third son of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Al Thani.

As Qatar Sport’s investments own PSG, there could be issues with UEFA if a Qatar bid is successful. However, there’s quiet confidence that as this bid is not through QSI, it’ll be allowed.

They released a statement with the bid.

It said: “The bid plans to return the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch, and – above all – will seek to place the fans at the heart of Manchester United Football Club once more.”

“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports.”

“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”

Therefore, this Qatar bid excites United fans as their enthusiasm to bring the club back to the top is not something fans have seen under the Glazers.

However, there is major doubts over the potential ‘sports washing’ and the ethical and moral issues with this ownership, and how it could potentially lose the values Manchester United represent.

A Saudi Arabian bid is another of high potential for the sale. However, details around this have been scarce, bar the interest from the country’s businessmen.

The Telegraph announced on the 16th February that Saudi Arabia had joined the race to buy the club.

With little details about their interest, and their existing ownership of Newcastle, it remains to be seen how a Saudi Arabian bid for United would work.

Multiple US firms have expressed an interest in buying United.

Global news company Reuters announced that Elliott Investment management are planning an offer for the club. However, this offer wouldn’t be a full acquisition of the club.

Similarly, Reuters have announced that Ares Management Corp are offering funds to help support a takeover of United.

There’s other rumours of full acquisitions in the US, but with their being no need to go public when bidding, details can be limited.

Ultimately, noise of partial investments in the club will not excite fans who fear that the Glazers may use this to keep themselves in majority control of the club.

However, at this stage a full sale still remains more likely.

Ultimately, after the 17th February’s soft deadline for bids, the upcoming months will be crucial in the race for Manchester United’s new owners.