The British billionaire’s proposed takeover of the iconic club has now shrunk to a partial investment — but that’s far from the whole story. Let’s explore some key questions.
On Oct. 16, Manchester United’s stock slid upon news from two days earlier that Sheikh Jassim of Qatar would withdraw his bid to purchase the famous old club for approximately $6.06 billion. It meant that, at least for a while longer, the Glazer family that has owned a controlling stake in the Premier League’s Red Devils since 2005 — only to become widely reviled by its global base of support — would be sticking around.
That development sent Jim Ratcliffe, billionaire CEO of British chemical conglomerate INEOS, right back into the conversation. His name had been linked to a potential bid that fell out of favor when it was reported in June that his intention was to acquire less than 100% of the Glazers’ stake; Sheikh Jassim was then granted an exclusive window to negotiate an acquisition.
Four months later, here we are.
Manchester United’s board had a meeting scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 19 to discuss several key issues. The prevailing understanding was this would include a vote to authorize Ratcliffe’s intended purchase of a 25% position in the club that would presumably increase over time to majority control.
That did not happen — since no actual agreement between the buying and selling parties has been reached, there’s nothing for the board to approve.
So, with so many facts, figures, and anxieties flying around Old Trafford faster than Marcus Rashford on a counterattack, it’s time to take a step back and establish just what we do and don’t know about the state of play at Man United.
What We Know About Jim Ratcliffe and Manchester United
Ratcliffe’s proposed bid for 25% of the club reportedly checks in at £1.35 billion, or about $1.58 billion. That implies a total club valuation of approximately $6.3 billion, which is higher than any sports team sale to date — Josh Harris’s acquisition of the NFL’s Washington Commanders holds the current record at $6.05 billion.
The bid is understood to be for equal portions of the Glazers’ 67% stake in the club and that of the club’s other shareholders.
He’s good for it. Ratcliffe has an estimated net worth of £15 billion (~$18.2 billion). He’s already staked in soccer, too, thanks to majority investments in French club Nice and Switzerland’s Lausanne.
The deal is expected to be approved in “weeks,” as noted by outlets including iNews.
As of this time, Ratcliffe is the only serious candidate known to the public in any potential sale. There’s no guarantee that this will remain true indefinitely.
Jim Ratcliffe’s goal upon joining club ownership is to make a significant splash in the January transfer window. Manchester United are routinely rated as one of the most popular, most valuable sports organizations in the world, but have not won a Premier League title since 2012-13.
What We Still Don’t Know About the Man United Sale
How long is this actually going to take? A protracted process that requires months to play out constitutes a major distraction for a club that sits in a teeth-gnashing 10th place in the Premier League as of this writing. No top-five finish means no European football next season, which brings its own roster-building challenges and financial limitations going forward.
Even if a deal got done today, will fans be the least bit placated knowing that the massively disliked Glazers would still be running the show?
With that in mind, what is the intended timeline for Ratcliffe to increase his stake from 25% to majority control?
Will Manchester United be able to make any notable moves in the January transfer window? There are potential concerns regarding not just the timeline of the Jim Ratcliffe deal, but Financial Fair Play regulations that could preclude the club incurring further financial losses.
Let’s say everything goes kaput. Who else is out there to step up and place a competitive bid? The number of entities that could conceivably cobble together upwards of $6 billion is miniscule.
Fortunately, the ball is still round. But around the Red side of Manchester, that may be just about the only sure thing these days — outside of an intense desire among fans to see the Glazers out of the boardroom at long last.
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