Closer look at Man Utd situation as Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS confirms interest

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has entered the race to take over Manchester United as the Glazer family consider a partial or full sale of the club.

The controversial owners bought the Old Trafford giants in a debt-funded takeover in 2005 and have since taken millions of pounds out of the Old Trafford outfit.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the current situation after INEOS’ publicly confirmed its interest in Ratcliffe’s boyhood club.

What is the situation with the Glazers?

There has been widespread anger, frustration and protests since the Glazers’ leveraged deal landed the club in debt in 2005, costing millions in interest payments and dividends at a time when success on the pitch has dried up. However, a November 22 statement brought fans hope of a fresh start as United confirmed the board “will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”. Executive co-chairmen Avram and Joel Glazer added that they were looking to “maximise the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future”.

Why would the Glazers cash in now?

Manchester United chief executive Richard Arnold with co-chairmen Joel Glazer and Avram Glazer
Manchester United chief executive Richard Arnold with co-chairmen Joel Glazer and Avram Glazer (Mike Egerton/PA)

The statement followed Liverpool’s owners, the Fenway Sports Group, in making it known their club is for sale, meaning England’s two most successful teams on the pitch and most marketable assets off it are both on the market. It comes at a time when the failure of both the European Super League and Project Big Picture thwarted attempts by the so-called big clubs to take greater control over football. And with Newcastle forcing their way into the competition for the limited number of Champions League places after their Saudi-backed takeover, plus the price paid last year for Chelsea, both the Glazers and FSG appear to think now is the time to cash in. At United there is an overdue need for investment in Old Trafford and the Carrington training complex on top of backing Erik ten Hag’s improving side.

What has happened since November’s announcement?

The Raine Group oversaw Todd Boehly's Chelsea takeover
The Raine Group oversaw Todd Boehly’s Chelsea takeover (John Walton/PA)

The Raine Group is acting as United’s exclusive financial advisor and is in charge of the ongoing process. The US-based investment banking firm has already overseen the sale of one Premier League club in the past year, having whittled down more than 250 expressions of interest in Chelsea to a handful of serious bids before Todd Boehly’s takeover. That sale moved quickly due to the unique circumstances left by the sanctions placed on former owner Roman Abramovich.

What is the potential timescale?

Manchester United face a busy start to 2023 on and off the pitch
Manchester United face a busy start to 2023 on and off the pitch (PA)

The Raine Group is looking to keep the process with United moving as quickly as possible, with the first quarter of the year recognised as a key time. Prospective investors need to demonstrate seriousness in a swift process, leading to suggestions that United could even be under new ownership by the end of the 2022-23 season.

Who has announced their interest in United?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is founder and chairman of INEOS
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is founder and chairman of INEOS (Martin Rickett/PA)

Having failed with a last-ditch £4.25billion bid for Chelsea last year, Ratcliffe – one of the UK’s richest men – is the only prospective buyer to make his interest public. The 70-year-old, who was born in Failsworth and supported United growing up, founded INEOS, with a spokesman for the global chemical company confirming to PA on Tuesday they had “formally put ourselves into the process”. INEOS already owns Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss Super League team FC Lausanne-Sport, plus holds interests in sailing, cycling, rugby union and Formula One. INEOS is principal partner and one-third shareholder of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team. The PA news agency understands team driver Sir Lewis Hamilton – who last year signed up to the Sir Martin Broughton-led consortium bid for Chelsea  – is not currently involved in the bid.

What other interest is there in United?

As well as Ratcliffe’s interest, bids are expected from the Middle East, Asia and the United States. Avram Glazer reportedly spoke to potential investors in Qatar during the World Cup and United currently have a pop-up shop in Davos during this week’s World Economic Forum annual meeting. United fans will hope for better owners than the Glazers, but supporters’ trust chief executive Duncan Drasdo warned last November that they could yet “be stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire”.

How much might United sell for?

Manchester United co-chairmen Joel Glazer and Avram Glazer have decisions to make
Manchester United co-chairmen Joel Glazer and Avram Glazer have decisions to make (Martin Rickett/PA)

After Boehly and his group paid £2.5bn for Chelsea last year, there has been a rapid recalculation of what the Premier League’s top clubs might be worth. Football finance expert Kieran Maguire has said that, based on a comparison with Chelsea’s revenues, profitability and assets, United would be worth around £4-4.5bn, with a reasonable expectation that a possible bidding war would push the price up to £5bn.