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November 23, 2022

Manchester United owners consider selling Premier League club

The Glazer family bought the club for £790 million in 2005.

By Susan Lingeswaran

The Glazer family, owners of English Premier League soccer giants Manchester United, have announced they are exploring outside investment for the club, potentially bringing an end to their 17-year ownership.

A statement from the club said the board will “consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company.”

It added that the process “will include an assessment of several initiatives to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment, and expansion of the club’s commercial operations on a global scale” to enhance “the long-term success of the club’s men’s, women’s, and academy teams, and bringing benefits to fans and other stakeholders.”

American investment firm Raine Group, who managed fellow Premier League side Chelsea’s sale in May, is exclusively advising Manchester United in the process.

The American family bought the club for £790 million ($1.34 billion) in 2005 but sold 10% of their holding via a stock listing in 2012. Since then, they have sold further shares.

Brothers Avram and Joel Glazer, executive co-chairmen and directors of the club, took over the day-to-day operations of Manchester United after their father Malcolm suffered a stroke in 2006. The billionaire died in 2014.

The Glazers’ other major sports investment is in American football side Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which they have owned since 1995. Avram Glazer, meanwhile, bought a franchise in the new United Arab Emirates Twenty20 cricket league in 2021.

In a statement, Avram and Joel Glazer said: “The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers.

“As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives.

“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future.

“Throughout this process, we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans, shareholders, and various stakeholders.”

Most recently, the club was valued at £3.75 billion, but the Glazers will be looking to fetch far more given the consortium led by US businessman Todd Boehly paid £4.5 billion in May for Chelsea.

Sky News said the club’s share price immediately increased by 17% after reports of the potential sale, adding almost £335 million to its market capitalization.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has previously stated his desire to buy Manchester United but said in October the Glazer family did not want to sell.

The move comes as the club faces several issues, including continued protests over the Glazers’ ownership, with one in May having forced the postponement of a home game against rivals Liverpool.

The club was also part of the failed European Super League project that collapsed last year amid a backlash. Joel Glazer later apologized for the unrest it caused and pledged to attend fans’ forums.

Yesterday's (November 22) announcement came on the same day the club announced that Portugal captain and Manchester United legend Cristiano Ronaldo had left with immediate effect after criticizing United's ownership in an interview last week, saying the Glazers “don’t care about the club.”

The news also comes two weeks after the owners of Liverpool, Fenway Sports Group, announced that they are exploring new investment and considering a sale.

Conrad Wiacek, head of sports analysis at GlobalData, commented: “The sale of Manchester United could be the most expensive sale of any sporting institution in history with a fee likely to come to $6 billion.

“With Liverpool also on the market, potential investors are spoilt for choice but Manchester United offers a prestige few other organizations could match.

“Regularly viewed as one of the richest and most valuable clubs in the world, with a brand value comparable to US franchises such as the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees, the club could be sold for an astronomical fee.

“Despite a decade of poor performance on the pitch, the club is still the highest-grossing club in terms of sponsorship in the English Premier League.

“According to GlobalData’s Business of the Premier League report, the club generated over $325 million in sponsorship revenue for the 2022-23 season, ahead of rivals Manchester City and almost double that of Liverpool.

“While the price point may prove prohibitive for an individual, a consortium or investment group may jump at the chance to restore the club to former glories.”

Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images

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