Manchester United receive improved bid from Qataris as takeover battle heats up
Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani has tabled his improved bid to buy Manchester United as the potential sale of the club enters its most crucial stage.
The Glazers are now weighing up serious second offers from the Qatari bank and Briton Sir Jim Ratcliffe, but it remains far from certain that they will agree to an outright sale.
Improved minority stake deals have also been sent to brokers as the American siblings now debate between themselves which offer to pursue. Sheikh Jassim’s group is understood to believe the ball is now completely in the Glazers’ court, but remain adamant their deal is the best on offer “for the club, fans and local community”.
The Qatari bid finally landed late on Friday night, more than 24 hours after Ratcliffe. Both had secured had extra time from brokers to break a 9pm Wednesday deadline to finalise offers expected at around £5 billion.
United have dismissed another offer from Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus in recent days.
Elliott, the US hedge fund, has also filed new terms to New York brokers, with a minority stake offer rather than outright purchase to woo the Glazers into a deal. The former AC Milan owners 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 deadline, is for “a small amount of common equity” in addition to an offer to provide financing for any bidders.
Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim remain the frontrunners to seal a record-breaking deal.
The deadline of 9pm on Wednesday came and went before the two leading candidates to buy the club confirmed they had been granted more time.
The last-minute delay had increased fears among United fans that the Glazers could yet opt to keep hold of the club. A £5 billion-plus deal would obliterate the current record purchase of a sports team following the sale of the Denver Broncos American football franchise for £3.8 billion last year.
But the Glazers have been looking for as much as £6 billion to sell, and it remains to be seen if any of the forthcoming bids will be sufficient to persuade the Americans to end their controversial 18-year reign.
Four of the Glazers siblings, Kevin, Edward, Bryan and Darcie are believed to be eager to sell at the right price but Joel and Avram, the United co-chairmen who have been the most invested of the siblings in the club, are said to be more resistant and have remained open to the idea of a partial sale or minority investment.
Last year, the pair were known to have explored potential financing options with a view to buying out their siblings but talks with hedge funds such as Apollo Global Management came to nothing.
The prospect of the Glazers staying at Old Trafford with a fresh partnership – such as the one Elliott is proposing – would likely trigger a huge backlash from fans, many of whom have convinced themselves change is coming since the Florida based family announced back in November they were exploring “strategic alternatives”, including a potential sale.
Both Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim’s team held productive meetings with United officials and representatives for the Glazers and Raine in Manchester last week.
Sources close to Sheikh Jassim, the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank and the son of the former Qatari prime minister, say he is “very confident” that he has the outstanding bid.
But Ratcliffe is ready to fight for the club he has supported since he was a boy having given great thought to how United would be structured and run under Ineos ownership.