Jim Ratcliffe is emerging as the frontrunner to buy into English football giants Manchester United Plc, people with knowledge of the matter said, with the British billionaire’s recently revised offer giving him the edge over a rival proposal from Qatari investors.
(Bloomberg) — Jim Ratcliffe is emerging as the frontrunner to buy into English football giants Manchester United Plc, people with knowledge of the matter said, with the British billionaire’s recently revised offer giving him the edge over a rival proposal from Qatari investors.
The chairman of chemicals company Ineos Group Holdings SA is in talks with the club’s US owners, the Glazer family, and their advisers over the structure of a deal, according to the people.
Under terms being discussed, Ratcliffe could make an offer for some of the shares held by both the Glazers and minority investors in Manchester United, the people said. Ratcliffe may end up with an initial stake of roughly 25% in Manchester United in a deal that could value the club at more than £5 billion ($6.1 billion), they said.
The Glazer family currently views Ratcliffe’s bid for a minority stake as more attractive than an alternative Qatari offer for the whole club, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Manchester United’s board is set to discuss the latest proposal at a meeting as soon as the next few days, the people said.
Deliberations are ongoing and there’s no certainty they’ll result in a transaction. While the Glazer family is closer than ever to finding a palatable deal, the situation remains fluid and the Qatari group could still increase its bid, the people said.
Shares in Manchester United closed down 0.8% in New York on Thursday, giving the club a market vale of about $3.2 billion. The stock has risen more than 50% over the last 12 months.
Bloomberg News reported last month that Ratcliffe was restructuring an offer for Manchester United to address concerns from minority holders — which include the likes of Lindsell Train, Ariel Investments LLC and Eminence Capital — about being excluded from any deal.
An agreement would bring an end to the long-running battle for one of sport’s biggest prizes. Manchester United competes in the English Premier League and its rich history and sprawling global fan base mean it’s long been coveted by investors looking for a foothold in the world’s richest football league.
Ratcliffe, a Manchester United fan, has been competing against a Qatari consortium led by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani. Ratcliffe’s proposal could give certain members of the Glazer family, including Joel and Avram Glazer, a chance to remain invested — at least in the short-term.
That would likely infuriate some supporters of Manchester United, who have blamed its US owners for presiding over years of under-performance on the pitch and want them out of the club.
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The sale is being handled by bankers at US-based advisory firm Raine Group LLC. Representatives for Raine, Ratcliffe and Manchester United declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Qatari group said its offer for 100% of Manchester United was still on the table and represented the best solution for the club.
It’s been almost a year since the Glazers publicly said they would conduct a strategic review into their ownership of the club. The bidding process has moved at a slow pace given the interests of the various stakeholders involved.
Ratcliffe put forward a proposal earlier this year to acquire 69% of shares in Manchester United owned by the Glazers. That left little benefit for holders of the club’s remaining stock. A top-three shareholder in Manchester United previously sent a letter to the club’s board warning that independent directors could be at risk of being sued for recommending any bid that favors one set of shareholders over another.
Manchester United is one of England’s most successful football clubs, boasting a record 13 Premier League titles. But its dominance of English football has shifted in recent years to crosstown rival Manchester City FC, which has won multiple honors since being taken over by Abu Dhabi investors in 2008.
Former Manchester United star David Beckham told CNBC in an interview that aired on Thursday that it was the right time for somebody new to take over the club.
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(Updates shares in sixth paragraph, adds club history in penultimate paragraph.)
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