Last week, Manchester United opened its doors to potential buyers to question senior officials in the club’s hierarchy.
It was the most significant public development since the Glazers announced the club was up for sale in November.
Boots on the ground added a touch of seriousness to the negotiations and the parties now have until play ends on Wednesday (5pm on the East Coast; 9pm in the UK) to make another bid.
The first to visit Old Trafford last Thursday was a delegation representing the King of Qatar, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani. The party included Shehzad Shahbaz, chairman of the ninth Sheikh Jassim Foundation, and Fadi Bakhos, his senior personal advisor.
Bacchus is exceptionally close to Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, better known as HBJ, the former Prime Minister and father of Sheikh Jassim.
Next through the door on Friday was Sir Jim Ratcliffe, owner and founder of petrochemical giant Ineos. He was accompanied by senior officials from his company, including Sir David Brailsford, a former British cycling executive who is now Director of Sport at INEOS; Andy Currie and John Rees, co-owners of INEOS; INEOS Sport President Rob Nevin and CEO Jean-Claude Blanc.
So, with yet another deadline fast approaching, what’s the state of play in terms of selling Manchester United?
the athlete He talks you through…
Who are the main bidders?
Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe are two of the most popular and well-known bidders for United.
The Qatari emir, who is the son of the former prime minister and head of Qatar Islamic Bank, says he has been a lifelong Manchester United fan.
Ratcliffe is one of the wealthiest individuals in Britain and grew up seven miles northeast of United’s Old Trafford stadium. In the 2018 edition of The Sunday Times ‘Rich List’, his wealth was estimated at £21.05 billion ($25.4 billion).
Were their initial offers the same?
They were – but they are not believed to be over £5 billion and the two bids were for different bets.
Sheikh Jassim wants to complete a full takeover of United, which means he will buy the Glazer family 69 percent and then buy the remaining 31 percent, which is made up of smaller investors.
The Qatari made many pledges to invest in specific areas of the club without burdening United with debt after the full cash purchase.
However, Ratcliffe is bidding to buy 69 percent of Glazer and, at this point, is not offering to buy out the remaining shareholders.
He will have to borrow money to finance any acquisition, and INEOS has not committed itself to repaying the club’s debts, which amount to 656 million pounds, although those close to his offer have given assurances that no new debts will be charged to the club.
How did United’s bidder meetings go?
This was the “second stage” when the presenters had the opportunity to look more deeply into the books and ask questions of officials in the United States.
Sheikh Jassim’s delegation spent 10 hours in the club, examining the accounts line by line and discussing the expected expectations. The minute meetings lasted until 7:30 p.m.
Sheikh Jassim was not present and there were bankers and lawyers on his behalf.
Ratcliffe was greeted off the field by Richard Arnold, United’s chief executive.
As INEOS already owns a football club – France’s Nice – Camp Ratcliffe entered the meetings with a good knowledge of United and sport in general, so it wasn’t necessary to see how broadcast deals, player contracts and so on worked.
Having finished at Old Trafford, the INEOS delegation headed to Carrington, the club’s training ground, for more meetings.
United’s first team manager, Eric ten Hag, happened to be in the building when Ratcliffe was there.
“I just met them, we shook hands but I’m focused on the match,” said Ten Hag. “Others in the club are dealing with potential investors.”
Ahead of United’s FA Cup win over Fulham on Sunday, the pre-match press conference was moved from the Jimmy Murphy Center to the main building in Carrington where the usual press facilities were used for takeover meetings.
John Murtague, the club’s director of football, was part of the group that introduced Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe. Colette Roche, Chief Operating Officer, and Clive Batty, Chief Financial Officer, participated in the talks.
The Glazers initially kept the United hierarchy out of the loop, but as the process continued to evolve, senior officials needed to be involved.
Is there anyone else running?
So far, we know that Elliott Investment Management, the US hedge fund, has approached Brin, the bank handling the sale for the Glazer family. Elliott offered to help finance any acquisition and indicated that it would provide financing for the Glazers should the sale fail.
Joel and Avram Glazer, for example, could look to buy out their other siblings (Kevin, Brian, Darcy and Edward), though that borrowing would likely be litigated against the club unlike the two.
Other investment groups similar to Elliott’s — including Ares Management, which declined to comment on its participation in a recent event — are also believed to have offered their capital to potential bidders and the Glazer family.
Does Ren hope for more bids?
definitely. Competitive tension drives up prices, which is exactly why the Glazer family has hired the Commercial Bank to facilitate a potential sale. This, at least publicly, has not yet happened.
Although Ryan is headed up by Joe Ravitch, it is Colin Neville who leads the operation for the bank and is photographed in Manchester with the country delegation.
What is the next important date in the process?
Bidders will have until the end of play on Wednesday to submit their next bids, and the two main parties continue to insist they will not overpay for United.
It remains to be seen if their bids will be an improvement over what they did the first time around.
Likewise, the Glazers set a price and if this could not be met, they would feel no further pressure to sell the club.
(Top image: Getty Images)
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