“The Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the Company,” the club stated in a brief press release filed after the close of trading Tuesday.
Manchester United shares were up more than 8% Wednesday to $16.19 in pre-market trading ahead of the regular trading in New York. The club had already rallied nearly 15% Tuesday afternoon, seemingly on the news Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo and the team mutually agreed to split. The stock finished the day at $18.80, up more than 25%.
Ronaldo’s release—which removes a headache from the Red Devils’ bench, after the star strongly criticized the club in an interview with an English personality on TV—was accompanied by a surge in volume. That indicates it’s likely that news of a potential sale reached the market at that time, since a sale of the club is much more impactful than freeing up one player’s salary. Volume in Manchester United shares Tuesday afternoon were the strongest they had been since mid-August, when Elon Musk tweeted that he was buying the club, a comment he later clarified was a joke.
The Glazers executed a leveraged buyout of Manchester United in 2005 at $1.53 billion (790 million pounds), later listing the club on the New York Stock Exchange. The family—who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers—control the club by virtue of a class of supervoting shares. A segment of ManU fans have been vocal critics of the family ownership, feeling dividends paid to shareholders detracts of the club’s ability to spend on elite players.
Last evening’s announcement doesn’t mean the club will be sold however. According to the press release, the strategic alternatives “will include an assessment of several initiatives to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment, and expansion of the club’s commercial operations on a global scale, each in the context of enhancing the long-term success of the club’s men’s, women’s and academy teams, and bringing benefits to fans and other stakeholders.”
Raine Group is the club’s financial advisor for the potential moves, with Latham & Watkins as legal counsel. The Glazers themselves are using Rothschild & Co as their personal financial advisors, according to the filing.
The possible sale of the Red Devils means arguably the three most iconic teams in English soccer may change hands in less than a year. An America-led syndicate purchased Chelsea this summer for a record $3.16 billion (2.5 billion pounds), while Red Sox parent Fenway Sports Group indicated two weeks ago it is exploring selling Liverpool F.C.
(This article has been updated with Wednesday’s closing price for Man United.)