Man United owners in the eye of the storm



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Man United might sell TV rights to fund stadium Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

The Glazer family, who own the Premier League club Manchester United F.C. (UK), would consider selling a minority stake in Man United, people familiar with the matter said, as pressure mounts on their ownership of the historic English football club.

Manchester United was purchased by the Glazer family partially from PIK (payment in kind) loans from US hedge funds. These were paid off in November 2010. Some of this money was secured against the clubs assets, incurring interest.

‘Bloomberg’ stated that the owners have held some preliminary discussions about the possibility of bringing in a new investor, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. The American Glazer family is not yet ready to cede control of Manchester United, which could be valued at about £5 billion ($6 billion), the people said.

The Manchester United Football Club, commonly referred to as Man United or simply United, is a professional football club based in the Old Trafford area of Greater Manchester, England (UK). The club competes in the Premier League, the top division of the English football league system.

The Old Trafford is a football stadium in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England (UK), and the home of Manchester United F.C. With a capacity of 74,310 it is the largest club football stadium in the United Kingdom, and the 11th-largest in Europe.

‘Bloomberg’ further stated that discussions are ongoing and there’s no certainty the Glazers will decide to sell a stake in the club, according to the people. A representative for Manchester United and the Glazer family declined to comment.

Shares in Manchester United rose as much as 7.6 percent in New York (US) on August 17th. The stock was up 6.4 percent at 3:34 pm, giving the company an equity market value of $2.2 billion.

Manchester United is one of the best-known and most successful clubs in world football. It has won a record 13 English Premier League titles and has consistently been able to attract the game’s biggest stars, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese footballer who plays as a forward for Manchester United and captains the Portugal national team), Paul Pogba (French football player who plays for Serie A club Juventus F.C. (Italy) and the France national team) and Zlatan Ibrahimović (Swedish football player who plays as a striker for Serie A club A.C. Milan and the Sweden national team).

The club would likely attract a host of big-name investors, similar to its peer team Chelsea F.C., which was recently sold to American billionaire Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital in a £4.25 billion deal.

English billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, who is the head honcho of the Ineos chemicals group, who also missed out on the Chelsea purchase, expressed interest.

A spokesman for Ratcliffe’s company Ineos said, “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer.”

Such is the global reach of Manchester United that Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Elon Musk tweeted he was buying the club recently, before clarifying he was joking.

Late Malcolm Glazer bought the club in a 2005 leveraged buyout that saddled it with massive debts and the family has faced distrust from hardcore supporters ever since.

While this was mitigated in the early years of their ownership as the team continued to win trophies under Sir Alex Ferguson (Scottish former Football Manager and player who was the Manager of Manchester United from 1986 to 2013), resentment has grown steadily after the legendary coach’s retirement in 2013. Since then, the club has cycled through managers and big-money players with only a handful of trophies to show for it.

To make matters worse, their dominance of English football has shifted to crosstown rivals Manchester City F.C., which has won multiple honors since being taken over by Abu Dhabi investors in 2008.
 

Ill Will

A perceived lack of investment in Manchester United’s infrastructure, including its Carrington training ground and the famous Old Trafford Stadium, and frustration over poor recruitment strategy have compounded the ill will toward the Glazers.

Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer are Executive Co-Chairmen and Directors at Manchester United, while family members Kevin Glazer, Bryan Glazer, Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, and Edward Glazer all sit on the board, according to the club’s website.

Manchester United was floated on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. The Glazer family owns shares representing roughly 97 percent of voting power at the club, according to a 2021 annual report.

Fan tensions have boiled over in recent weeks, with Manchester United losing the first two games of the new English Premier League season which kicked off on August 6th, including a 4-0 drubbing by Brentford F.C. At the opening home match of the new campaign – a 2-1 loss to Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. – a large group of devotees walked toward the stadium with banners that read: ‘Fight Greed. Fight for United. Fight Glazers’ and ‘We Want Our Club back’.

Maintained Walid Koudmani, Chief Market Analyst at financial brokerage XTB, “Fans of Man United will be excited to learn that a minority stake sale is looming as this opens a door to a new insider in the club who could look to buy larger stakes in due course. A minority stake sale certainly opens a door that looked closed previously.”
 

TV Rights

‘The Times’ stated that Manchester United owners the Glazer family are set to be offered a cash lump sum in exchange for a share of future TV income to help pay for the expansion of the club’s Old Trafford Stadium.

The Glazers are reportedly considering several investment routes, including a loan or selling a minority stake in Man United.

‘The Times’ further stated that another option which is certain to be offered by investment firms is to do a deal with a finance company for a lump sum in return for a chunk of the English soccer giants’ future TV rights earnings.

The cost to increase the Old Trafford capacity to 90,000 and improve United’s training ground has been pegged at about UK£200 million (US$236 million).

Reports surfaced recently that the Glazers were in exclusive investment talks with Apollo Global Management over the sale of a minority stake. The US private equity company has past form when it comes to providing finance in return for media revenue, reportedly offering Liga MX around US$1.25 billion for a 20 percent cut of the profits from the Mexican soccer league’s international rights.

This option also mirrors the deal done by LaLiga club FC Barcelona last month, which saw the Spanish club sell 25 percent of its domestic TV rights revenue over the next 25 years to US investment firm Sixth Street.

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