International Finance

Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim to buy Manchester United?

IFM_Manchester United
The Glazer family, who control Manchester United, is said to have set a record for the highest valuation of a sports team at £6 billion

Prince Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the son of former Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and a high-profile banker, has made a second offer for Manchester United on March 22, escalating the bidding war.

The 20-time English champions are also anticipated to receive a second offer from British entrepreneur Jim Ratcliffe.

The deadline for declaring an offer to Raine, the merchant bank hired to help with the club sale, was March 22, 2023.

Sheikh Jassim is still confident that it is “the best for the club, fans, and local community,” a source close to him told AFP.

The Glazer family, who control Manchester United, is said to have set a record for the highest valuation of a sports team at £6 billion (USD 7.3 billion).

When they invited outside investment in November 2022, the Glazers, who have been deeply unpopular with fans since they burdened the club with heavy debts in a £790 million leveraged takeover in 2005, appeared poised to cash in their chips at a considerable profit.

They may still decide against offering a majority share of the club to buyers who only want a minority ownership.

Initial bids from February 2023’s first round of bidding were estimated to be worth about £4.5 billion.

An additional £1.75 billion committed in other infrastructure and player investment would eclipse the Premier League record of £2.5 billion paid for Chelsea by a consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital.

In exchange for full ownership of the team, Sheikh Jassim has pledged to wipe out Manchester United’s USD 620 million debt, make significant investments in a new stadium and training facility, and support both the men’s and women’s teams on the pitch.

Ratcliffe, the founder of INEOS Chemical Company and a lifelong Manchester United supporter, has been more reserved in his evaluation of the procedure, adamant that he won’t pay a “stupid” price in a bidding war for one of football’s most illustrious clubs.

“How is the cost of a painting determined? How do you choose a house’s price? It has nothing to do with how much it costs to build or paint, ” Ratcliffe told the Wall Street Journal.

“Paying foolish prices for products is something you should avoid doing since you’ll later regret it,” he said.

Ratcliffe, who wants the Glazer family’s 69% ownership position, claimed that his interest in Manchester United would be “pure winning stuff” and referred to the team as a “community asset.”

Manchester United is anticipated to contact bidders by the end of March 2023, and there is still time to submit another round of bids.

If one bid is significantly higher than the others, it could engage in an exclusivity period, allowing for additional discussion before a final sale.

A delegation from Sheikh Jassim’s company has already seen the club’s stadium and training facilities to undertake additional conversations as part of their due diligence, followed by similar visits from Ratcliffe and INEOS representatives.

A successful Qatari offer would give the Gulf nation a big-ticket entry in the English Premier League, the most-watched domestic football tournament in the world, just months after hosting the 2022 World Cup.

The 2008 takeover by Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, changed the fortunes of Premier League champion Manchester City.

The Saudi royal wealth fund acquired a majority stake in Newcastle in 2021.

Amnesty International has urged the Premier League to strengthen ownership regulations to prevent “more sportswashing” from occurring.

Three-time European champions Manchester United haven’t claimed the Premier League crown since former manager Alex Ferguson guided them to victory in his final campaign before quitting in 2013.

Image Credits: Milaha

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