Is the Manchester United Sale a Rouse?

Manchester United For Sale…Kind Of…

November doesn’t seem all that long ago. Yet for Manchester United fans waiting and hoping, the last four months has been torture. That is because November 22, 2022 marks the day when the Glazer family announced their openness to selling all or a portion of the club. Yet here we are today with a very different prospective future in front of us.

Almost immediately after announcing their attempt to investigate other ‘strategic opportunities’ for the club the Glazers announced their partnership with the Reine Group. The same group that facilitated the sale of Chelsea last year.

Man Utd takeover: Glazers split on sale with current bids not meeting £6bn  valuation | Football News | Sky Sports
Credit: Image: SkySports

Since these announcements, the Reine Group set a deadline for initial bids for the club almost three weeks ago. As far as the plebian media and main stream punditry are concerned, there were a multitude of offers made.

The Bidders

Several of those bids were made public, mostly to garner fan support. Qatari Sheikh, Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani is one known bid. He is son of the former Qatari Prime Minister and head of the largest bank in Qatar.

A second public bid came from Sir Jim Ratcliffe, owner of chemicals manufacturer, Ineos. Both bids were for total ownership of the club. The Sheikh’s bid would not involve any debt. Where as Sir Jim’s bid would require debt which he has stated he will place on himself, not the club.

Further reports across Reuters and the The New York Times stated three investment firms were interested in mounting a bid. However, these three groups were only interested in financing a deal or submitting a partial ownership bid. They do not, however appear to be interested in a total ownership bid.

Those groups were Ares Management, Elliot Management and Oaktree Capital. All of whom manage hundreds of billions of dollars more in assets than Sir Jim or the Sheikh. Ares and Elliot have even set aside billions of dollars specifically for investing sporting enterprises. Funds which they have shown their willingness to use in the past.

Lastly, outlets like the Athletic, the Manchester Evening News and Sky Sports have all said a bid was submitted from an unnamed Saudi Arabian bidder.

Glazer’s Deem All Bids Inadequate

Things went a little silent after the Carabau Cup win. But, the rumblings were that the bid from Sheikh Jassim was a forgone winner. Apparently Ratcliffe was at risk of missing out as he was scrambling to get funding through JP Morgan. None of the other bids came close to an offer the Glazers would accept for full sale of the club. While the Sheikh and Ratcliffe’s bids still fell billions short of the Glazer’s asking price.

And if anyone is interested in using a hedge fund as a financing option, no one is saying as much.

So, if no one wants to pay they Glazer’s asking price, they knew they were overvaluing the market, and the hedge funds are striking out, the question begs, Why?

Was it all a farce? A cleverly executed rouse in one last feeble attempt to exploit United for a little longer?

Manchester United Sale a Strategic Farse

If your a cynic like me then the evidence points towards the Glazer’s not being interested in selling at all. And this whole process was strategic to deflect from club’s problems while simultaneously raising stock value. All the while biding time for ten Hag to deliver enough success to justify their decision to stay.

Follow me down this rabbit hole for a moment if you will…

The Glazer’s are not idiots, as much of my previous writing about them would suggest. In fact, they have been cleverly siphoning money from the club and successfully leveraging the clubs finances for 20 years. Looking in from the outside, an un-bias party might even suggest they are in fact very competent businessmen.

From a business perspective, the Glazer’s have been able to make money off of Manchester United, without incurring any personal debt, while keeping hold of one of the most valuable sporting assets in the world. They simply don’t care about properly investing in United in a way that makes the club successful before they see profits.

The Glazer Parasite

Joel (L), Avram (C) and Bryan (R) Glazer have never been ones for details of running Man United
Joel Glazer (L), Avram Glazer (M), and Bryan Glazer (R) Credit: Image: The Daily Mail

The Glazer’s have been using United as their private piggy bank for decades. I cant imagine they want to give up such a prolific money making entity. But with fan protests at an all time high, the board suspending dividends, and billions in investment needed, they were backed into a corner. They had to do something.

The mass media is supremely one sided on this topic. In fact I believe the Glazers used that to their advantage.

The Glazers knew that if they announced a possible sale it would boost the clubs value. They also knew that with the investment needed into the club they were not going to get their $6 billion asking price. They even knew the advantage to the timing of their announcement.

Misdirection from the Glazers

By announcing a potential sale or investment process right before the World Cup, they ensured the whole worlds eyes would be on the the club and football in general. This would give them huge advantages, such as boosting club popularity and stock price. This then makes the club look more valuable and gives them leverage in the negotiation process. While also making them more money as the controlling shareholders of the club.

Since announcing a possible sale, share prices have gone up 46% despite the clubs profit margin dropping by 50%. And while the share price has dropped slightly in the last week or two it is still almost double in value from it’s pre sale announcement price.

The other thing the announcement did was deflect from the Cristiano Ronaldo crisis at the club.

This is to say that it seems likely that the Glazer’s went into the sale process with the following mentality;

They didn’t care if they sold the club, but would have considered it if a sky high offer was made. They knew they were on the ropes and needed to raise money and deflect from problems within the club.

Meaning the primary motivating factors for announcing a possible sale; deflection, increasing United’s stock value and feeling out any minority investors. The way they fed the media reports of a full sale only shows how they are willing to turn fans’ hatred for them into another way to make money.

Glazers’ Greed Knows No Bounds

With inflation to account for and the clubs current uptick in form and stock price, it appears as if the Glazer’s are quite content to hold onto the club until it is valued at a price more in fitting with their unrealistic expectations. A process that could take years to come to fruition.

Erik ten Hag caught sharing awkward moment with Manchester United owner Avram Glazer
Avram Glazer greeting players and staff in the tunnel after United Carabao Cup final win over Newcastle. Credit: Image: Sport Bible

In true salacious fashion they appear happy riding ten Hag and the teams success until they can demand the asking price they want. Or they put so much debt on the club it is forced into administration.

From here there are so many possibilities. And truth is, it is impossible to know for sure what will happen. The fact that Avram Glazer was glued to Fergie at the Carabao Cup final is an indictment in itself. While the way he weaseled his way into the locker room post match also says he isn’t as interested in selling as the media circus would have us believe.

The smile on his face as he greeted players and staff in the tunnel post match seemed as sinister as it was staged.

His presence at that final only furthered speculation that more was going on behind the scenes. Since that match, more news has surfaced that Avram and Joel want to keep the club. In contrast their other four siblings that co-own the team want out.

What Will Happen to Manchester United?

Suggestions have been made that the two may buy out their siblings and take full control of the club.

So…what will become of Manchester United?

Will the Glazer’s hold onto the club? If they do they will likely need to raise money through investors or a hedge fund to facilitate the spending needed to keep United at the top of football.

Will Sir Jim or Sheikh Jassim be successful with a second bid? It will take a lot more money for this to happen. But, if one of them is successful, is it even worth it for United fans? We have to take into consideration rumors of sports washing from the Sheikh and greenwashing from Sir Jim.

Will a hedge fund take over or back an undisclosed bid? If they do, will it be any better than the Glazers? Wall Street has a growing strategic interest in capitalizing on sports investments. But capitalism is what is currently ruining the club.

Will more bidders surface? United fans should hope so. None of the current prospects are ideal for fans. We hate the Glazer’s, and I don’t think any fan wants them to stay. Questions of morality and human rights become egregious in the face of Sir Jim and Sheikh Jassim purchasing United. While the prospect of an investment firm, bank or hedge fund owning United inspires as much as keeping the Glazers.

Manchester United Sale Far From Over

In an ideal world a consortium of former United legends and celebrity fans would take over. Similar to the way LAFC and Inter Miami in the MLS were formed. With a group like that at the helm, I would almost be ok with them being backed by a hedge fund or investment bank with purely capital motives.

Manchester United's American owners consider selling club
Credit: Image: CNBC

Frustratingly so, as I have said on my previous posts on this subject, only time will tell. United fans will need to continue to endure this highly publicized tedium for months as all parties concerned work out their next moves.

Unfortunately, if no improved bids are submitted, it would seem the Glazes will stay in charge. It would also seem that this was how they wanted this situation to play out all along. They successfully deflected, successfully increased United’s stock value and successfully boosted their leverage in any potential future negotiations.

The team and stock value are on the up. The board are set to reinstate dividends next season, especially if United qualify for the Champions League. And leaks are coming out of United are that Avram and Joel don’t want to sell. Ten days ago the press had us believing this process was going to be done quickly. They also had us believing that an heir to the Glazer reign was a forgone conclusion once Sheikh Jassim bid.

Now, United fans are at the mercy of the roll of the die. Your guess is as good as mine as far as what will happen next. But, the fact that the Glazer’s, under one scenario or another, could still be in charge this time next year should worry all United fans.

Glory, Glory Man United.

About Keagan Priest McNicol 32 Articles
My Name is Keagan. I am a lifelong fan of the Red Devils and the beautiful game. My favorite things in the world are my family and friends, Manchester United, good food, the great outdoors, sarcasm and tennis. Green and gold until the club is sold.

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