Reports from Sky News suggest a potential milestone agreement between Manchester United’s American owners, the Glazer family, and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe. The deal, set at $33 per share, signifies Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a significant 25% stake in the revered English soccer club.
This impending deal, expected to be finalised imminently, marks the conclusion of a year-long sales process. Last November, the Glazer family disclosed their exploration of “strategic alternatives,” signalling openness to fresh investment or even a possible sale.
Ratcliffe’s offer stands as a striking 79.1% premium over the stock’s Thursday closing price, valuing the historic Old Trafford club at approximately $5.4 billion, exclusive of debts. This news prompted a notable surge in Manchester United’s U.S.-listed shares by 9.5%, reaching $20.10 during early trading on Friday.
While the Glazers will retain their position post-deal, Ratcliffe’s arrival heralds significant shifts in the club’s management. Expressing intent to revamp the football operations, Ratcliffe aims to reinvigorate the team’s performance, which has faltered since the departure of former manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
The anticipated changes include the departure of Chief Executive Richard Arnold, announced just days ago. Additional executive exits are expected upon finalisation of the deal, signalling a potential reconfiguration of the club’s hierarchy.
This landmark agreement positions Manchester United’s value above that of Premier League competitor Chelsea, which was sold last May for $5.2 billion, inclusive of debt and investments, to an investment consortium led by U.S. billionaire Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital.
Sources suggest that Ratcliffe’s proposed deal values Manchester United, including debts, between $6 billion and $6.5 billion, aligning with previous reports by Reuters. However, Manchester United declined to comment on these developments.
If ratified, Ratcliffe, also the chair of Ineos, is anticipated to take charge of the club’s player recruitment, an area of contention for the Glazer family amidst criticism from fans.
The Glazers, whose wealth spans real estate, retail, healthcare, and ownership of NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, acquired Manchester United in 2005 for £790 million. The family, currently controlling 96% of the club’s voting stock, may partially cash out under Ratcliffe’s proposed structure.
While Ratcliffe’s intentions for a full takeover remain unclear, his venture into sports isn’t novel. Ineos boasts ownership of French Ligue 1 club Nice, Swiss Super League’s FC Lausanne-Sport, and collaborations with clubs like Racing Club Abidjan in Ivory Coast Ligue One. Additionally, they are behind the Grenadiers, a highly successful cycling team.