Saudi Arabia linked with multibillion-pound takeover of Manchester United

Mohammed Bin Salman, Old Trafford and Jamal Khashoggi.
Mohammed Bin Salman, Old Trafford and Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia want to invest in Manchester United and could launch a takeover of the Premier League club.

Reports suggest that Crown Price Mohammad Bin Salman and the governing class of Saudi Arabia – worth almost a trillion pounds – could buy United in order to challenge Middle Eastern owners of clubs such as Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Qatar own City and PSG respectively, and have used the ownership to improve their reputation across the world with the soft power club ownership gives them.

The Sun reports that a bid could come from MBS, as Bin Salman is commonly known, or a linked entity either to buy the club entirely or to take a sizeable stake.

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United currently have a market capitalisation of $3.5bn, and the Glazer family and shareholders would expect a sizeable premium on any current valuation. Sky Sports report an offer of at least £4bn would be required.

The Saudi ruling elite already have interests in Formula 1 and WWE. They have also committed $45bn to Softbank’s Vision Fund, and there have been suggestions they could take another similar stake in any further fund launched by the Japanese conglomerate.

Avram Glazer, a co-chairman of United, has made several visits to the kingdom of late, and is one of the remaining names set to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh later this month. Several figures from banking and investment have pulled out following the fallout over the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Bin Salman’s 2030 Vision Project, aiming to modernise the country and its finances – in limited ways – already has a strategic partnership with United via their General Sports Authority. United have agreed to help develop football in Saudi Arabia as part of the deal.

Manchester United have fallen out of the top four this season, and have won just the FA Cup and Europa League since the retirement of Alex Ferguson as manager. Despite that, they are enjoying record revenues under the stewardship of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Experts believe that United’s Glazer family could sell part-ownership of the club to the Saudi rulers, or float more shares on the public stock exchange in New York, without giving up any control. It is unclear if Bin Salman would be open to such a deal, or would want to effect a complete takeover of the club.

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