One of Qatar’s largest banks’ chairman, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, has said that his foundation will make a bid to acquire Manchester United.
According to BBC Sport, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s company Ineos also formally submitted a bid before Friday’s 22:00 GMT “soft deadline” for submissions.
The wealthy Ratcliffe had previously expressed interest in purchasing United.
Considering selling as they “examine strategic alternatives,” the Glazer family, who purchased United in 2005, is considering doing so.
“The bid seeks to restore the club to its previous glories,” the Qatari consortium led by Sheikh Jassim stated.
The offer will be entirely debt-free thanks to Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which aims to make investments in the club’s football teams, training facilities, stadium, and other infrastructure, as well as in the fan experience and the communities the club supports.
The bid’s “vision” is for Manchester United to be known for its superior footballing abilities and to be considered as the greatest football club in the world.
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Although Ineos has not yet issued a statement, it is anticipated that the plan will highlight the fact that Ratcliffe, a Manchester native, would serve as “a British custodian for the club” and would work to “bring the Manchester back into Manchester United.”
Nice of the French Ligue 1 and Lausanne of Switzerland are owned by the Ineos group, which is owned by British millionaire Ratcliffe, 70.
Ineos Britannia, a prominent sailing team captained by Sir Ben Ainslie, is a part of their sporting roster and is vying to win the 2024 America’s Cup for Great Britain.
Ineos also has a five-year agreement with the Formula 1 team Mercedes, and in 2019 it acquired the British cycling team Team Sky. Sheikh Jassim, the son of a former Qatari prime minister and chairman of Qatari bank QIB, is said to have been a lifelong supporter of Manchester United.
His group made no mention of the price at which they were planning to buy the club.
Meanwhile, the United States is anticipated to make at least two proposals to United, and there have been hints of interest from Saudi Arabia.
This indicates that there may be up to five parties seeking to negotiate a full sale, with others seeking to make a lesser investment in exchange for a portion of the 20-time English league champions.
Nasser al-Khelaifi, the president of Paris St. Germain, is expected to play a significant role in any Qatari ownership offer, even if he has no current direct engagement with the team.
Under Al-leadership, Khelaifi’s Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) was considering the possibility of purchasing a lesser stake in a Premier League team.
Any Qatari effort to acquire United in its entirety would, however, need to go through private parties or a different organization due to Uefa regulations that prohibit multi-club ownership.
Human rights and LGBTQ+ organizations are concerned about the possibility of Qatari involvement in a Premier League club and the ownership of two significant European teams.
Simon Stone from BBC Sports
In the Gulf state, questions about the possibility of a conflict of interest arising from Qatar’s existing ownership of PSG and its proposed purchase of Manchester United are being received with skepticism.
According to estimates, there are some dual ownership arrangements at half of the Premier League clubs.
One such is Manchester City’s participation in the City Football Group. The president of Sparta Prague, who, like West Ham, participated in the Europa League last year, is part-owner of West Ham and Daniel Kretinsky.
They also take note of Ratcliffe’s plans to acquire United and the fact that he shows no signs of giving up control of French club Nice, which is four points outside the European qualification zone.
Also, Uefa has previously given permission for RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg to compete in the same European tournaments.
It is reasonable to believe that any possible issues have been resolved given that Nasser al-Khelaifi, the chairman of PSG, also serves as the head of the European Clubs’ Association, which has been collaborating more closely with Uefa.
Sources claim that this bid is entirely independent of PSG’s ownership, nevertheless. The bid’s suggestive nature is also emphasized. Unsatisfactory data has been made available in United’s “data room,” sources claim.
It is now necessary to provide all relevant financial information on the Old Trafford club.
Although it is more commonly seen as the beginning of the process than the conclusion, Sheikh Jassim is sincere in his intention to free the club from the Glazer family’s ownership for the first time since 2005. He also has plans to invest in the greater Trafford area.
Qatari involvement raises questions
Following news that “entities linked to the Qatari government are proposing a bid that would enable them to take a controlling stake in Manchester United,” Fair Square, a human rights organization, wrote to Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin on Thursday and copied in Premier League commissioner Richard Masters “to highlight several issues of serious concern.”
“We would ask Uefa to express a clear public position barring any takeover of this sort,” the letter reads, citing Uefa’s rules designed to safeguard the integrity of its tournaments.
No group of Qatari investors capable of making such an acquisition would be able to persuade anyone of their independence from the Qatari government.
Rainbow Devils, a group of LGBTQ+ supporters of Manchester United, stated on Friday: “We feel that any bidder who aspires to purchase Manchester United must promise to making football a sport for everyone, including LGBTQ+ supporters, players, and staff.
“Therefore, some of the bids that are being made cause us great anxiety. In light of this, we are actively monitoring the current procedure.
The £305 million Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United in 2021 would serve as a model for the Premier League because it was only finalized after the league had secured “legally enforceable assurances” that the Saudi state would not own the team.
Uefa has reluctant to comment, but has previously expressed worry about the possible “material threat” that multi-team ownership may pose to the fairness of club tournaments.
Yet, despite both teams’ tight ties to beverage tycoon Red Bull, Uefa did permit RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig to compete in the Champions League in 2017.
What is the price of United?
Football financial expert Kieran Maguire estimates United would be worth in the neighborhood of £5 billion. Last year, Chelsea was sold for £4.25 billion to a group led by US investor Todd Boehly.
After the Glazers’ statement, Maguire said, “we have seen United’s share price more than double over the course of the last few months.”
“At this time, the shares are worth approximately £3.8 billion; add the debts, and we’re probably at $4.75 billion. You need to convince people to sell, so if you ask the Glazers, I believe the asking price will be between $7 and $8 billion. The offers, though, I believe, are more likely to be in the range of five or just over five.
“Manchester United claims to have 1.1 billion global supporters, but when you calculate their income, you find that they total 500 million, meaning that they essentially make 50p per supporter year.
As long as you keep costs under control, you simply need to increase that to make it £1 per fan each year, and Man Utd will suddenly be a billion-pound corporation.
“By costs we really mean player wages, then United go from a corporation that is essentially breaking even into one that is earning stunning profits and big returns for investors,” the article continues.
What follows now?
When the time has gone, it’s unlikely that either Manchester United or the US-based Raine Group, who has been tasked with seeking new owners or investors, will issue a public statement.
The decision to proceed with a full sale will be made by the Glazer family. The Glazer family members most motivated to maintain some stake have historically been co-chairmen Joel and Avi Glazer.
A contract was supposed to be finalized by the end of March, but from the start, there was a lot of optimism that it would definitely be done by the conclusion of the season. Although no United representative has publicly discussed the procedure, tradition dictates that Richard Arnold, the club’s executive, will answer queries from investors when the team releases its second quarter financial results sometime next month