The two preferred bidders to buy Manchester United football club have been revealed.
It follows the decision by the current owners of the club, the Glazer family to put the club up for sale.
They had owned the club since 2005, but had never been popular with the club’s fans, in part because of how they used debt to finance the acquisition of the club in the first place, and because of their perceived lack of investment in the side, whilst still taking out millions of pounds every year in dividend payment.
The Old Trafford Stadium is in dire need of renovation, whilst the outdated nature of the club’s training facilities were outlined by Cristiano Ronaldo in his infamous television interview before the World Cup in Qatar.
The sale process
The sale process is being handled by the Raine Group, the same New York investment bank that handled the sale of Chelsea last year. Bidders had until 10 pm on Friday to make official bids, and it has now been revealed the two preferred candidates.
It has been reported that the Glazers were hoping the sale might raise as much as £6 billion, but it now looks like such expectations may have been unrealistic, with some arguing that the fact they are not based in London is a detraction for potential investors.
Nevertheless, Manchester United is a brand name with global recognition, and the Glazers are set to make back their original investment of £800 million a number of times over.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe
It is no surprise that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is one of the bidders.
The son of a factory worker was born in Greater Manchester and grew up supporting the club as a b
He has become Britain’s richest man, founding INEOS, a petrochemicals group which had a turnover in excess of £65 billion in 2021.
INEOS is already heavily involved in Sports. They bought the high successful Team Sky cycling team, which competes in the Tour de France and other major races, are funding a bid by Britain for the next America’s Cup yachting race, and they are major partners in the Mercedes Formula One team.
They already own Ligue 1 side Nice, and FC Lausanne-Sport who play in the Swiss Super League.
Ratcliffe has long wanted to add a Premier League club to his portfolio, and did make a late bid to buy Chelsea, but it was rejected because it was after the deadline set.
Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani
Sheikh Jassim is the chairman of QIB (Qatar Investment Bank) one of the largest banks in the Middle East kingdom, and claims to be a lifelong United supporter.
His father, Hamed Bin-Jaber al-Thani, was both the country’s foreign and prime minister during the 1990s and 2000s.
He has promised to restore the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch.
Both bids are understood to be in the region of £4.5 billion, although the structure of the two deals may be completely different. INEOS has previously relied on debt to finance most of its deals, whilst the Qatari bid is reported to be debt free.
That may be potentially attractive to those United fans who believe that having to service the high debt the Glazers loaded on the club’s balance sheet has held the club back for the best part of the last two decades.
Potential Unease about another Middle East investor
There will though be potential unease about another Middle East owner of a Premier League club. The acquisition of Newcastle United by a consortium largely funded by Saudi money, has led to accusations of sportswashing, whilst Manchester City’s ownership model has come under the spotlight after the slew of charges recently laid against the club.
And then there were the widespread protests about the decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Human Rights groups protesting against the country’s treatment of its migrant labour force, human rights record and treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
Any takeover by United by a Qatari investor is likely to attract a high degree of scrutiny and public interest, and most likely protest.
Do United fans care?
In all likelihood, most United fans will not care who owns the club as long as it is successful on the pitch.
They cannot be criticised for this, as most supporters of other clubs would feel the same. And for some who go to Old Trafford every week, they will consider anybody is preferable to the Glazers.
VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT FOOTBALL NEWS STORIES & FEATURES