After nearly two decades, the Glazer family’s ownership of Manchester United is likely coming to an end, even if yesterday’s stock sell-off followed speculation that the family was exploring a means to retain control. Initial bids for the iconic English soccer team were due Friday—two bids were made public, and at least one came in around the $5.95 billion valuation projected by Sportico in its recent English Premier League ratings.
Whatever the final sale price turns out to be, the Florida-based family, whose patriarch, Malcolm Glazer, acquired the team in 2005, have already seen profits well over a billion dollars from the club.
Based on a review of reports registered with the UK Companies House from 2003 and U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filings since Man United’s 2012 IPO, the Glazers have collected $1.32 billion in stock sale proceeds, dividends and other payments since the now-deceased Malcolm began amassing a stake in the club that led to their ownership.
The tally includes $705 million in share sales, starting with $116.7 million worth dispensed at the IPO, in which the team paid the underwriters’ 77 cents a share commission on behalf the family—a $6.4 million benefit. While share sales have occurred periodically since the IPO, the Glazers sold the most in 2021, when Avram, Kevin and Edward—three of Malcolm’s sons—sold $257 million worth of equity, according to SEC filings. The tally excludes any capital gains taxes the shareholders paid on the sales. The family declined to comment through a spokesperson.
The family also benefitted from the club’s history of paying dividends to all shareholders. From late 2003, when Glazer began buying shares, through fiscal 2021, when the club suspended dividend payments, the Glazers collected more than $573 million. The family is sometimes erroneously criticized for instituting dividend payments, since Manchester United’s former ownership also paid a dividend, according to UK filings.
The balance of the family’s earnings from the soccer team are $25.5 million in management fees the club paid to Glazer-controlled entities ahead of the team’s New York Stock Exchange IPO, as well as a loan from the team of $15.7 million, which the club forgave in 2012.
In short, the family has nearly recouped all of the $1.4 billion price tag the team fetched in 2004. Yet in all likelihood, the Glazers are already well in the black on the Red Devils. The family used a leveraged buyout to fund most of the purchase price of the club, placing much of the debt onto the team’s books, which is the root of the deep disdain many Man United fans hold for the family. Based on data compiled by S&P Capital IQ, club debt went from nothing to more than $1.1 billion after the Glazers took control of the team.
Completing a sale would produce the biggest haul from the family’s foray into the Premier League. Malcolm Glazer’s kids—five sons and one daughter—own 23 million common shares and all the super voting Class B shares (124 million), which convert automatically into common shares on a sale. Those 147 million shares are worth more than $3.9 billion now, with Man United shares having more than doubled to over $26 since November. If the team sells at its Sportico valuation, that would be the equivalent of nearly $37 a share. At that price, the Glazers would return stateside with $5.4 billion in proceeds on top of the $1.3 billion already collected.
The Glazers aren’t the only shareholders who will do well in a Manchester United sale. Hedge fund billionaire George Soros will see a stake taken at the 2012 IPO finally produce a return more befitting the track record of the world’s greatest trader. Soros Fund Management bought 3.1 million shares of Man United at the IPO and would see its investment more than double to $114 million. His hedge fund is the only other major shareholder in the club, defined by owning more than 5% of its equity.
Recent SEC filings show UK fund manager Lindsell Train reduced its Manchester United stake by 3.5 million shares over the fourth quarter of 2022. Lindsell Train started amassing a large stake in the team in 2017, eventually building to a peak of 11.6 million shares in mid-2020. The fund has been whittling down its stake, possibly to accommodate withdrawals by its investors. It now holds nearly 7.5 million shares worth about $200 million, having cashed out $75 million in shares the past two years. Based on the average share prices during periods when Lindsell Train acquired its stake and when it sold, the fund is probably up about $47 million, or 22%, on Man United.
A good investment, but nothing compared to the Glazers’ return.