Manchester Utd owners consider selling club

Manchester United’s U.S. owners have begun looking at options for the 20-times English soccer champions, including a new investment or a potential sale, 17 years after the Glazer family bought the club.

The Glazer family is working with financial advisers on the process, which could lead to a partial sale of the Old Trafford club or investments including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment, the club said in a statement.

Manchester United fans have been clamouring for a change of ownership and the Glazers have been the target of intense criticism as the team, which has a record 13 English Premier League titles, have gone five years without winning a trophy. The last silverware they won was the Europa League and League Cup back in 2017.

“As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives,” Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, executive co-chairmen and directors of United, said in the statement.

“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future,” the statement said.

Its sale may attract high-profile investors.

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe will bid for Manchester United, the Telegraph Sport reported on Wednesday, adding that his renewed interest in buying the club is said to be serious.

In August, Ratcliffe, a long-time fan of the club, had expressed interest in buying United, Reuters reported. At the time, Elon Musk had also joked about planning to buy the club. Chemical firm INEOS, where Ratcliffe is chairman, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Former England captain David Beckham, who spent over a decade at the club, is open to holding talks with potential bidders for Manchester United, Financial Times reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Prospective buyers could seek to enlist Beckham to boost their chances of taking over the club.

United could be sold for close to 7 billion pounds ($8.44 billion), FT said, citing a banker close to the process who added a bidding war could send it higher.

Manchester United shares were up nearly 19% in New York trading, building on the more than 14% rise following reports of the sales process on Tuesday afternoon.

The company was worth $2.5 billion at the close of U.S. trading on Tuesday. But at $17.76, the shares are not much higher than their 2012 IPO price of $14.

The club’s capitalisation as a public company peaked at $4.3 billion in 2018.

Asian tycoons, especially those from China, have been buying European teams in recent years, including Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers and Italy’s Inter Milan.

However, football clubs have since been deemed unfavourable assets by China and any major overseas purchase would seem unlikely at the moment, said Mark Dreyer, Beijing-based author of “Sporting Superpower”, a book about China’s sports ambitions.

“It’s almost impossible to see how any Chinese-related entity could justify a purchase of this magnitude in the current climate,” he said, citing the economic fallout of China’s battle to contain COVID-19 infections. “No state body would approve this kind of deal.”

The Glazers, who also own the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Bucccaneers, are under pressure with United sitting fifth in the Premier League halfway through the season, currently suspended for the World Cup in Qatar.

The club on Tuesday said star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will leave with immediate effect, marking a bitter end to the Portugal captain’s second spell at Old Trafford after he said he felt betrayed by the club.

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