Manchester United bidders believe the club’s owners, the Glazer family, could walk away from a £5bn sale of the Premier League club.
Three parties are known to have submitted proposals to the Glazers’ bankers – British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe; the son of the former Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani; and US hedge fund Elliott Management – by Friday’s soft deadline.
Offers were also expected from Saudi Arabia and other US investors, but the Raine Group is yet to tell bidders what has been tabled and by whom, or even what the next steps in the sale process will be.
Ratcliffe and his chemicals company Ineos have submitted a bid for “majority ownership”, while Sheikh Jassim has made an offer for a full takeover. Elliott, which last summer sold AC Milan for £1bn, wants to partner with another bidder, offering funding in exchange for a minority stake.
The Glazer family, who bought United in a leveraged £790m buyout in 2005 and have taken more than £1bn out of the club in dividends, interest and fees, are understood to have set an asking price of £6bn.
And there is a belief that the Americans are prepared to sit tight and hold onto their asset if they don’t receive a high enough offer, despite their unpopularity among the club’s supporters.
“One thing is for sure: they will only sell if they get top, top dollar,” said one person close to the bidding process.
“They don’t give a single damn about anyone’s opinion; they just want money. So if the bids in the next few weeks aren’t good enough they will just tell everyone to F-off and wait until the market becomes more buoyant.”
Raine could encourage bidders to team up in an attempt to raise the price. The merchant bank also ran the £2.5bn Chelsea sale process last year, which saw multiple combined offers, including the successful one helmed by Todd Boehly.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), meanwhile, has called on all bidders to give their public backing to current manager Erik ten Hag, who has overseen an uptick in results in his first season in charge.
The fans’ group also raised concerns about sporting integrity, given that Ratcliffe and the Qatari state own other teams who could face United in European competition, and bidders’ human rights record.
“There are questions about sporting integrity given the exceptionally close links between some bidders and the owners of other European clubs including PSG and Nice. There are also questions about whether any bids will also be based on high levels of debt,” said MUST.
“We also note the importance that any owner respects the rights of all people, particularly women and the LGBTQ+ community. Concerns have been raised by other fans groups which we fully support.
“We urge all bidders to open a dialogue with fans groups alongside the bidding process with the club, in order to discuss their proposals including the above issues.
“Finally, everyone can see the progress the team is making under Erik Ten Hag. After the frustrations of the last decade, it is clear that enormous strides are being taken. Any prospective bidder needs to explicitly commit to backing Erik and his plans to restore United to glory.”