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Manchester United Club Strikes Deal to Sell 25% Stake to UK Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe

December 24, 2023

After a decade without winning the Premier League, Manchester United announced Sunday that it had agreed to sell a minority stake in the storied club to Jim Ratcliffe in a deal that would also see the British billionaire and boyhood fan take control of its soccer operations.

The record 20-time league champions have not won the title since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, prompting increased anger toward the Glazer family, United’s American owners.

The announcement came more than a year after the club was put up for sale.

Ratcliffe, who owns petrochemicals giant INEOS and is one of Britain’s richest people, has secured a stake of “up to 25%” in United and will invest $300 million in its Old Trafford stadium.

Ratcliffe will provide $200 million upon completion of the deal and a further $100 million by the end of 2024, United said. In total the deal will be worth around $1.6 billion, including the $300 million of funding.

The deal is subject to approval by the Premier League.

United is currently eighth in the Premier League and has already been eliminated from European competition. Under-fire manager Eric ten Hag watched his team lose 2-0 at West Ham on Saturday, United’s 13th defeat in 26 games in all competitions this season.

Ratcliffe, who was born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, had originally bid to buy the entire majority share of around 69% held by the Glazers.

“As a local boy and a lifelong supporter of the club, I am very pleased that we have been able to agree a deal with the Manchester United Board that delegates us management responsibility of the football operations of the club,” Ratcliffe said.

“Whilst the commercial success of the club has ensured there have always been available funds to win trophies at the highest level, this potential has not been fully unlocked in recent times. We will bring the global knowledge, expertise and talent from the wider INEOS Sport group to help drive further improvement at the club, while also providing funds intended to enable future investment into Old Trafford.”

The transaction will be funded by Trawlers Limited — a company wholly owned by Ratcliffe — without any debt, United said. United fans have been critical of the leveraged nature of the Glazers’ buyout that loaded debt onto the club, as well as a perceived lack of investment and the dividends taken out by the owners.

Trawlers was named after a famous quote by former United great Eric Cantona. The Frenchman said at a news conference in 1995: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”

Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, United executive co-chairmen and directors, said in the statement: “Sir Jim and INEOS bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the club. And, through INEOS Sport, Manchester United will have access to seasoned high-performance professionals, experienced in creating and leading elite teams from both inside and outside the game.

“Manchester United has talented people right across the club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help bring our great fans more success in the future.”

In November last year, the Glazers announced plans to seek new investment and instructed US merchant bank Raine to oversee the process, which included the potential of a full sale.

Ratcliffe had been in competition with Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani to buy out the Glazers, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But after months of protracted negotiations Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid in October to leave Ratcliffe in position to take a minority share in the club.

Sheikh Jassim always maintained he was interested in a complete takeover.

United said Ratcliffe had paid $33 per share.

‘MIXED FEELINGS’

Uncertainty over the ownership had led to fan protests outside the club’s Old Trafford stadium, while chants of “Glazers out” have been regularly heard during games.

While Ratcliffe was long seen by fans as a popular potential owner, his minority investment means the Glazers remain in place, despite years of fan campaigns to drive them out.

Manchester United Supporters Trust felt fans would be left with “mixed feelings” after Ratcliffe’s investment left the Glazers still in overall charge.

“When the so-called Strategic Review was announced nearly a year ago, it finally appeared that the sale of the club was on the horizon, potentially bringing the new investment and new direction MUFC so clearly needs,” MUST said in a statement.

“Against that backdrop, fans have very mixed feelings today. We welcome the investment from a boyhood red, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS company, but many will wish his ownership stake was greater than the initially rumored 25%. We note the statements that he and his team will control sporting activities, yet puzzle how any organization can put its very core business in the hands of a minority shareholder, and how that meaningfully works in practice.”

MUST added: “Today might — just might — be a step forward for Manchester United after some very difficult years.”

The late tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for 790 million pounds (then about $1.4 billion) amid a backlash from supporters.

“The joint ambition is to create a world-class football operation building on the club’s many existing strengths, including the successful off-pitch performance that it continues to enjoy,” United said Sunday.

Initially, Ratcliffe’s INEOS had said it was aiming for “a modern, progressive, fan-centered approach to ownership.”

It also said it was focused on United winning the Champions League for the first time since 2008 and making it the “number one club in the world once again.”

Ratcliffe is said to be worth $15.1 billion and tried to buy Premier League club Chelsea last year.

He already owns French club Nice, cycling franchise Team INEOS, is one-third shareholder of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team and competes in the America’s Cup with sailing team INEOS Britannia.

WHAT’S NEXT?

INEOS’ responsibility for the management of the club’s soccer operations is set to include “all aspects” of both the men’s and women’s teams as well as the academies.

Just how Ratcliffe and INEOS will implement those on a day-to-day basis remains to be seen.

United’s statement noted the deal was still “subject to customary regulatory approvals” which is expected to take some time. The process must be ratified by the Premier League and also an official announcement made via the New York Stock Exchange.

There have been suggestions it could take up to six weeks for changes to the club’s ownership to be established with all the relevant parties.

BAD TIMING?

Former United captain Gary Neville attacked the timing of the announcement, which came at 4 p.m. local time on Christmas Eve.

“Manchester United 2023 has been a disgrace to the end,” the soccer pundit wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The timing of this is truly awful and no functioning organization would even think about it.”

Neville added: “Anyway all the very best to Jim Ratcliffe and I hope he can somehow work out a way to get the club right again and back to being something respectable on and off the pitch.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culled from AP

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