One of Manchester United’s top investors has ditched more than half of its stock

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Harry Maguire of Manchester United during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Luton Town at Old Trafford on November 11, 2023 in Manchester, England. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Ariel Investments owned 7.5 per cent of Manchester United 18 months ago
Ariel Investments owned 7.5 per cent of Manchester United 18 months ago

One of Manchester United’s biggest institutional investors, Ariel Investments, has offloaded more than half of its shareholding in the last 18 months amid uncertainty over the club’s future ownership.

The Chicago-based asset manager held 12.3m of shares in United – 7.5 per cent of the club – in March last year but has since slashed that to 5.7m and is continuing to sell.

A filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday showed that Ariel had recently sold 831,000 shares.

It comes as British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe nears agreement on a minority investment in United.

The Greater Manchester-born owner of chemicals giant Ineos is poised to buy 25 per cent of the club for £1.3bn in a deal that values them at £5.2bn – more than double their current market capitalisation of £2.4bn.

Ariel began to sell off United shares after March 2022 and accelerated when the Glazer family, who own the 20-time English champions, announced they were considering a sale later that year. It continued cutting its shareholding in early 2023 and has steadily reduced it as the year has gone on.

Takeover talk boosted the price of United’s shares, which are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, from around $13 in November 2022 to a peak of almost $27 in February. As hopes of a full buyout have receded it has fallen to around $18.

The Glazers received one offer for a full takeover, from Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and believed to be worth more than £5bn, but appear to have favoured a minority sale to Ratcliffe that will allow them to remain the biggest shareholder.

Ratcliffe already owns two football clubs, Nice and Lausanne, through his Ineos empire, which also includes a cycling team and one third of the Mercedes Formula 1 outfit.