In November 2022, the Glazers announced they were considering a sale of soccer club Manchester United. The family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said it would explore all strategic alternatives, including “new investment into the club, a sale or other transaction involving the company,” in a statement.
After six months of negotiations and bids, a resolution is still pending as the Glazers do not have a unified decision on what they will do with the club, according to people familiar with the process. They are expected to review all their options at the end of May when the EPL’s 2022-23 season wraps.
The only publicly known bidders are INEOS founder Jim Ratcliffe and Qatari investor Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani.
The Glazers’ Manchester United ownership began 20 years ago when the late Malcolm Glazer bought a 2.9% stake in the club for about $5.6 million (£9 million). The billionaire made a formal takeover bid when his stake reached 57% less than two years later, and he executed a leveraged buyout of the club in 2005 at $1.5 billion, securing 98% of the shares. During the takeover, the $787 million of debt he used was incorporated onto the club’s books. By 2010 the club’s debt reached $1 billion, and despite fan backlash, the family refinanced the debt through a bond issue worth approximately £500 million.
Following the bond issue, the family opted for an IPO, and Manchester United debuted on the NYSE in 2012, raising $233 million. The IPO gave the Red Devils a market value of around $2.3 billion. At the time of the IPO, the family represented 67% of the voting power, holding class B shares with 10 votes each, thus maintaining control of the club.
The 2012-13 season was the last time Red Devils won the Premier League. Here’s what has happened since then.
Manchester United Sale Timeline
May 2013: The club’s legendary manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, announces that he will retire after 26 years at the helm. During his tenure, the club won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups and two UEFA Champions League titles. Ferguson is the most successful manager in British football history.
May 2014: Malcolm Glazer dies. The family sells 12 million more shares at $17 for $200 million (£129 million). In December, Edward Glazer sells 3 million of his shares. Amid fan anger, the Glazers rule out selling Manchester United for at least five years.
August 2017: Through the holding company Red Football, the Glazers sell 4.3 million shares for $17 a share. They make $73 million (£58 million) from the sale.
March 2021: Avram Glazer, the co-chairman, sells 5 million Class A shares worth around $100 million (~£70 million).
October 2021: Avram’s brothers Kevin and Edward Glazer have sold 9.5 million shares at a price of $16.98 per share, netting a total of $161 million (£117 million).
November 2022: The family announces it is “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives for Manchester United,” in a statement during the annual investors meeting. $MANU shares were up more than 8% in pre-market trading and finished the day at $18.80, up more than 25%. The day before, shares rallied 15% on the news that Cristiano Ronaldo and the team mutually agreed to split.
December 2022: The family hires Raine Group to oversee the sale process. Raine facilitated the Chelsea sale the previous March.
February 2023: Raine Group sets a deadline for the first round of bids, and Man United stock jumps 10%. Since the Glazers announced a potential sale in November, $MANU stock value has more than doubled. At this point, the enterprise value of the club, including net debt, is $5.2 billion.
Qatari investor Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and INEOS founder Jim Ratcliffe are the only parties to publicly declare their intent to bid on Manchester United, but several other bids are submitted.
Al Thani is the chairman of Qatari Islamic Bank and the son of the country’s former prime minister. Ratcliffe is the richest man in the U.K., worth $15.3 billion, according to Forbes. They are both lifelong fans of the club.
March 2023: The club reports revenue of $206 million (£167 million) for its second quarter (representing the three months ending Dec. 31, 2022), a 10% drop from the prior year, driven by the club’s absence from the Champions League and a resulting a decline in broadcast revenues. Net profit for the quarter is $7.7 million.
April 2023: In April, Raine receives the second round of bids. Both Al Thani and Ratcliffe are in this group, along with six more bids, including the Finnish businessman and former Nokia executive Thomas Zilliacus. As part of his bid, Zilliacus says he will invite Manchester United supporters from around the world to be co-owners.
Raine reportedly gives feedback to these bidders ahead of the third round of the bidding process.
At the end of April, Raine accepts a third round of bids, and five parties submit, including Al Thani and Ratcliffe. Zilliacus leaves the bidding process.
Raine Group declined to comment for this article.