British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe looks set to emerge with a victory of sorts in the Manchester United takeover saga.
Indeed, it is beginning to look more likely that the Glazer era will not be coming to an end.
Widespread reports on October 14 said Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani had withdrawn from the bidding process.
Transfer news expert Fabrizio Romano claimed that the final bid had been worth almost double the $ 3.5 billion market valuation of the club, and said the Sheikh had planned an extra $ 1.5bn of investment. Sky News was among the outlets to announce that they also understood the offer had been withdrawn.
Joel and Avram, the most hands-on of the owning family, are confident of securing the investment they want in order to boost capital and stay in charge at Old Trafford, according to ESPN.
In the aftermath of Sheikh Jassim’s withdrawal, Mail Online reported that Ratcliffe was close to finalising a 25% stake in United for $ 1.57bn. This would secure control of United’s footballing operations for Ratcliffe’s group and be viewed as the first part of a staged buyout.
In January 2024, Ratcliffe said he expects the deal to be ratified by mid-February.
Back in November 2022, it emerged the Glazer family were willing to end their controversial 18-year ownership of the club, much to the excitement of United fans, many of whom have shown their opposition to the owners for a number of years.
The Americans took control of the Red Devils courtesy of a highly contentious leveraged buyout in 2005.
Debt created by that deal and a subsequent decline in the club’s fortunes on the pitch have led to several fan protests in recent years.
But a statement from brothers Avram and Joel Glazer — who are are co-chairmen of the club —revealed their ‘strategic alternatives’ for United with the Glazers thought to be looking for a price in excess of £5bn.
MORE: Man United takeover: Who are the bidders who want to buy Man Utd from the Glazers?
What the Glazers said about selling Manchester United
“The process is designed to enhance the club’s future growth, with the ultimate goal of positioning the club to capitalize on opportunities both on the pitch and commercially,” the club statement released on November 23 read.
“As part of this process, the board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company.
“This 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.
“There can be no assurance that the review being undertaken will result in any transaction involving the company. Manchester United does not intend to make further announcements regarding the review unless and until the board has approved a specific transaction or other course of action requiring a formal announcement.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean a sale; it could be that the Glazers retain their majority stake in the club and simply look for other investors to join. Indeed, that is beginning to look the more likely scenario.
However, the situation could eventually be forced on the Glazers, with the latest financial results from Old Trafford showing an ongoing pattern of decline.
United’s overall debt rose to £535.7m/$ 662.5m, based on financial figures for the end of 2022, in an increase of £58.6m/$ 72.4m from the previous year, with club-wide revenues down by 10%.
There were some improvements in commercial revenue, in comparison to the previous 12 months, but the wider picture is a concern.
MORE: How Fulham lost their heads to gift Man United victory in the FA Cup quarterfinals
Why might Manchester United be sold?
Chelsea’s recent lucrative sale has no doubt given owners of other Premier League clubs a good idea of how much they might stand to earn by moving on.
Todd Boehly’s takeover of the west London side came at a cost of £4.2bn, with £2.5bn accounting for the value of the club and a further £1.7bn pledged for investment.
It is surely no coincidence that, just a matter of months on from that deal being struck, Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group signalled their intention to sell up after 12 years at the helm earlier this month.
Newcastle United also, of course, recently changed hands and came under Saudi Arabian ownership, though their £305m valuation is a huge distance short of the figure Manchester United are attracting.
How much is Manchester United worth?
It was recently reported by The Independent that the Glazers could look to sell all of their shares for around $ 6 billion (£4.9bn).
That would far outstrip the figure paid for Chelsea, perhaps accurately reflecting Manchester United’s status as England’s most prestigious football club.
It is also likely to price out a number of potential bidders, including many of those involved in the battle to take over at Chelsea over the summer.