Chicago-based Ariel Investments sold nearly 3 million shares, or 26% of its stake, in Manchester United during the fourth quarter, according to a Tuesday SEC filing by the publicly traded English Premier League club. Ariel had been the largest institutional holder of Man United at the end of September, with 21% of the common shares outstanding. Lindsell Train is now the biggest.
In November, Man United announced it would consider a sale of the team, one day after releasing Cristiano Ronaldo from his contract. “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.
The stock is up 82% since early November and 53% since the team announced a potential sale to a current enterprise value of $4.6 billion. It is unclear when Ariel sold its shares during the three-month period. It paid between $12 and $14 for most of its stake, and shares topped $23 in December. Ariel still holds 8.5 million shares. The firm did not respond to a request for comment, and Manchester United declined to comment.
The Glazer family controls the club through a class of supervoting shares. Malcolm Glazer, who died in 2014, bought Manchester United via a leveraged buyout in 2005 for £790 million pounds ($1.5 billion at the time) and later listed the club on the New York Stock Exchange.
The family—which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers—has been heavily scrutinized by fans and the British press for the team’s heavy debt load and poor performance on the field. United last won the Premier League during the 2012-13 season and is not part of Champions League this year after finishing sixth in the EPL last season.
Ariel had $14.6 billion in assets as of Sept. 30 and is led by co-CEOs John Rogers and Mellody Hobson. Hobson is part of Rob Walton’s group that paid a sports-team record $4.65 billion for the Denver Broncos in a deal approved in August.
Sportico valued Manchester United at $4.65 billion in May 2021.
With additional reporting by Brendan Coffey