Explained: The chaos in the Manchester United takeover process
The deadline for submission of second bids for Manchester United descended into chaos and confusion on Wednesday night. Telegraph Sport looks at how events unfolded on another day of drama involving the Old Trafford club - and what happens now as the battle for control at England’s biggest club heats up.
Why was Wednesday significant in the takeover process?
A deadline of 9pm GMT had been set by Raine - the merchant bank running the process on behalf of the Glazer family - for bidders to submit revised offers for the club. Interested parties, including the two leading contenders, Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group, had been aware of this deadline as far back as last month following submission of opening offers back on February 17.
So it was a simple case of bidders submitting their offers before the deadline?
In theory, yes, and that’s certainly how the day appeared to be progressing with sources close to both the Qatari and Ineos bids indicating that they would be submitting offers before the deadline. Despite sources close to Sheikh Jassim suggesting he was “very confident” his was the outstanding bid and would be of the greatest benefit to United, it became apparent Ratcliffe was ready to go toe to toe with Qataris and would not be backing down given the Oldham born entrepreneur’s determination to own the club he has supported since he was a boy. The word around 5pm was Ratcliffe would be submitting an improved bid.
Did the Qatari and Ratcliffe bids go in by 9pm then?
There was confirmation from the Qatari end on the deadline that Sheikh Jassim’s bid was in, with sources indicating he remained “fully engaged and confident” in his offer. “We believe it’s the best bid for the club, fans and local community,” an insider said. They indicated that the next steps were down to the Glazers and that they were not anticipating an immediate response. As for the Ratcliffe end of things, there was no specific confirmation of a bid going in by 9pm but no denials one had not.
So what happened next?
This is where things start to get confusing. Sources close to Sheikh Jassim claimed they received news as their bid was submitted that the deadline had been extended but that no specific new deadline had been set. With the original 9pm deadline having already passed, the Ratcliffe camp indicated their bid would be in “very shortly” and that they were “meeting the deadline”. Reports began to surface that this was a move by the Glazers - who are said to want at least £6 billion for the club - intended to try to flush out more potential bidders and drum up the price.
But there was a twist, right?
Yes, and this is where it is possible to detect clear friction in the process because, as far as United and the Glazers are concerned, there were vehement denials that the deadline had been pushed back at the eleventh hour at their choosing in an effort to coax more bidders to the table. The club say they fielded calls on Tuesday from the Qataris requesting more time to submit their bid and that, by Wednesday, Ineos were asking for much the same, requests that were granted. A new deadline was never set. Where all that leaves relations going forward is unclear but the tensions were evident on Wednesday night. “This has not gone down well,” said one United insider.
Okay, so have Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe now submitted their second bids?
Those familiar with the Sheikh Jassim bid said they were waiting to hear when their revised offer now needs to be submitted. Sources said they were happy to use the extra time to “fine-tune” their bid, rather than having risked submitting on Wednesday night only to find rival groups had taken advantage of the additional time and put it to good use. “There is clearly now a bit more time so we will wait to hear when the bids need to be submitted,” a Qatari insider said. There were adamant, though, that their commitment to buying United remained undimmed and the bid would be going in. Sources close to Ratcliffe said they were hoping to be able to confirm on Thursday when their bid would need to be submitted by.
Have the two main bidders indicated how much their offers are worth?
All bidders have agreed to non-disclosure agreements and have declined to divulge the financial details of their bids but it is believed that the revised Qatari and Ratcliffe offers will top £5bn, which would be a record price for a sports team. The Denver Broncos American Football team sold for around £3.8bn last year.
Will that be enough to convince the Glazers to sell?
That’s the million dollar question. The Glazers are thought to have been holding out for at least £6bn and the fear among United supporters is that the Americans - who have been the subject of widespread protests and fan fury for the past 18 years - could look to hold on to the club if their asking price is not met. Even then, the situation is not clear cut. Four of the siblings, Edward, Kevin, Bryan and Darcie, are understood to want out at the right price, which will apply pressure on Joel and Avram, the United co-chairmen and the two family members most invested in the club, who are said to be less enamoured about a full sale.
Are there any other bidders out there?
This has been another contentious element of the process. Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe believe they are the only serious contenders to buy United outright and that talk of other substantive interest in the club is designed to try to ramp up the price. Those running the process say there were meetings with eight interested groups in Manchester over the previous fortnight and that “multiple” bids were submitted in advance of the 9pm deadline and that the Qataris and Ratcliffe were the only ones requesting more time.
Have the former AC Milan owners, Elliott Investment Management, submitted a proposal?
Officials from Elliott, the US hedge fund, were among the first party to meet with United, Glazer and Raine representatives in Manchester for talks and presentations. Elliott initially offered to provide financing to any potential bidders in the first soft deadline for bids last month. But it is understood that their revised offer, submitted before the original 9pm deadline on Wednesday, is for “a small amount of common equity” in addition to an offer to provide financing for any bidders.