Thomas Zilliacus, the Finnish entrepreneur who had submitted two bids to buy English soccer heavyweights Manchester United, has now withdrawn his offer to purchase the club.
In a Twitter post late yesterday (April 12), 69-year-old Zilliacus said a decision from the current United owners, the Glazer family, to go to a third round of bidding from prospective owners is a “farce” and that the Glazers are paying “no respect” to the club.
Zilliacus, petrochemicals giant Ineos' owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, and Qatari royal family member and banker Sheikh Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani had already each put forward two bids to take control of the club after the Glazers first opened the process for a potential sale of the Manchester club in November.
Zilliacus said that he, Ratcliffe, and Sheikh Jassim were all ready to negotiate a deal but that the Glazers were seeking to maximize profit from the sale at the expense of the club.
He added that “the delays will make it very difficult for any new owner to build a winning team for next season.”
Jim Ratcliffe, sheik Jassim and myself all were ready to negotiate a deal to buy United. Instead Glazers chose to start a new round. I will not participate in a farce set up to maximize the profit for the sellers at the expense of Manchester United.
— Thomas Zilliacus (@TZilliacus) April 12, 2023
The final deadline for third-round bids is reportedly April 28.
Zilliacus is the founder and chair of social media organization novaM Group and has previously been involved with Finnish soccer team HJK Helsinki.
He planned to purchase the club – 50% initially – through his XXI Century Capital investment firm, with the other half being bought by the club's fanbase, who could then potentially have had a say in club decision-making.
The decision by the Glazers to take bidding to a third round means that interested parties must put new offers in.
Initial bids were submitted in mid-February, with the whole process now unlikely to be concluded before the end of the 2022-23 season in late May.
Sheikh Jassim is planning to bid for total control of United, buying 100% of the club’s shares, while Ratcliffe will instead look to buy out the Glazers’ 69% shareholding.
The Glazers first announced they were considering a sale of the club in April, and have brought on board the Raine Group, the US advisory firm, to take charge of the process.
The Florida family bought the club in 2005 for £790 million (then $1.47 billion), and their intended price for a sale is believed to be between £5 billion and £6 billion.
They have since become highly unpopular with fans, partly to do with on-field performances variously during their tenure and partly due to the mechanics of the deal – a leveraged buyout through which their own debt following the takeover was loaded onto the club.
Aside from the team’s poor on-pitch form and accrued debt, the owners are also unpopular due to their involvement in the failed European Super League project in April 2021 and because of their lack of serious investment in the club’s Old Trafford stadium (although redevelopment plans for the venue are reportedly in the offing).
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