The Glazer family’s controversial ownership of Manchester United could be coming to an end but plenty of uncertainty remains after the final deadline for bids for the Premier League club passed on April 28.
A Qatar-backed bid by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and a bid from Sir Jim Radcliffe’s Ineos Group were submitted.
The Glazers have endured a tumultuous relationship with United fans since taking over at Old Trafford in 2005 and confirmed in November that they were exploring the possibility of a sale.
Despite Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus insisting he is still in the game despite not making a new offer by the deadline, and several investors reportedly showing interest in acquiring a minority stake, it now appears to be a battle between Sheikh Jassim and Radcliffe.
Who are the final bidders who want to buy Manchester United from the Glazers?
Sky Sports reported that Sheikh Jassim’s offer is worth in excess of £5 billion and represents world-record bid for a sports team.
This still falls short of the Glazers’ £6bn valuation but would represent a clean break from their era if successful.
Speculation has grown recently that the Glazers are more inclined to sell a minority stake to boost capital but retain overall control of the club. That has opened the door to the likes of Raine Group, which is interested in financing a bid from elsewhere, and Carlyle, another US investment giant that is interested in buying a partial stake.
According to ESPN’s Mark Ogden, Joel and Avram Glazer, the most hands-on members of United’s owning family, are “increasingly confident” of securing the outside investment that would allow them to stay on at the club and wait for its value to increase in the coming years — perhaps to as much as $12.4 billion over the next decade.
In this context, Radcliffe’s bid for a majority stake might hold greater appeal. The Ineos bid is for just over 50% of United, with the Glazers remaining a 20% stake.
Although a minority in overall terms, a mechanism built into United’s stock could see the Glazer family retain a key decision-making influence in the event of Radcliffe being successful.
Shares are split into two categories, Class B and Class A. Class B shares can only be held by the Glazer family and automatically convert into Class A stock if they are sold. Class B shares also carry 10 times more weight than Class A shares when it comes to voting rights.
The club’s latest financial results also make for worrying reading for potential buyers. United’s overall debt rose to £535.7m/$662.5m, based on financial figures for the end of 2022, in an increase of £58.6m/$72.4m from the previous year, with club-wide revenues down by 10%.