(This Oct. 14 story has been corrected to fix the word ‘Sheikh’ in the headline)
By Anirban Sen and Mrinmay Dey
(Reuters) – Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani has informed the Glazer family that controls Manchester United Plc that he will not improve on his bid to acquire the iconic soccer club for more than $6 billion, people familiar with the matter said.
The move leaves the remaining bidder for Manchester United, Ineos Chair Jim Ratcliffe, in a stronger position. He has offered to buy only a 25% stake in the club, allowing some of the Glazers to cash out, and it remains unclear whether he will clinch an agreement.
The exact value that Ratcliffe’s bid infers on Manchester United could not be learned, but the sources said it was higher than Jassim’s offer of more than $6 billion. Manchester United is currently valued by the stock market at $3.3 billion.
Ratcliffe’s deal, if finalised, could be announced later this month, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Ratcliffe would oversee the team’s operations and talent acquisition, while the Glazers will remain in charge of the commercial side of the business, according to the WSJ report.
Jassim, who had also promised to invest more than $1.7 billion in Manchester United after he acquired it, still wants a deal but has informed the Glazer family that there is no point in remaining in the bidding process following nine months of unsuccessful negotiations, the sources said.
Jassim would not have used any debt to acquire Manchester United and his bid would have paid down the club’s existing debt pile, which net of cash totals more than $600 million, the sources added.
The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. Representatives for Jassim declined to comment while Manchester United and Ratcliffe representatives did not respond to a request for comment. Sky News reported earlier on Saturday that Jassim was withdrawing from the bidding process.
The Glazers’ valuation expectations have been aggressive based on other soccer deals. Last year, the $3.1 billion acquisition of Chelsea Football Club by an investment group led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital valued it at 5.7 times revenue for its last financial year.
Valuing Manchester United more than Jassim’s bid, at $7 billion for example, would be equivalent to 11 times the club’s revenue over the last 12 months, according to LSEG data.
The Glazer family, which made its fortune in real estate, retail and healthcare and also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought the team for 790 million pounds ($960 million) in 2005. The six descendants of Malcolm Glazer, who died in 2014, together control 96% of Manchester United’s voting stock.
The club announced in November 2022 that the Glazers were exploring cashing out on their ownership.
Record 20-time English champions, Manchester United has over 650 million fans worldwide, according to market research firm Kantar. A large number of them have been clamouring for a change of ownership.
That is because the Glazers have overseen a significant downturn in the club’s fortunes, with the club winning just the last of their 20 top-flight titles in former manager Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge in 2012-13.
Manchester United won the League Cup under Erik ten Hag this season, but their third-place finish in the league, 14 points behind local rivals and treble winners Manchester City, underscores the scale of the turnaround required.
(Reporting by Anirban Sen in New York and Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jose Joseph; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker)