As we reported earlier this week, Manchester United could finally be sold by the Glazers after 17 years.
Reports from Sky News revealed that the American owners were preparing to announce their intention to examine sources of outside investment, potentially including a full-blown auction.
The Glazers’ time in charge of the Red Devils has been dominated by fan protests and a decline in on-pitch performances, culminating in Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent interview in which he openly criticised the club and owners.
And now, Manchester United’s owners have confirmed that selling the club is a possibility, as they seek to increase both its sporting and commercial success.
According to a statement, the board of directors was ‘commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives for the club’, with this including the potential for ‘new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions’.
But who might buy Manchester United?
Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Sir Jim is one of Britain’s richest men with a reported net worth of £10.9bn. On top of that he’s a boyhood Man United fan, and already owns French side Nice and Swiss side FC Lausanne-Sport.
After it was reported back in August the Glazers were considering selling a minority stake of Manchester United, he expressed interest in buying the club.
A group of former Manchester United players
This option would be popular with fans, as a group of ex-United favourites have experience owning a football club – including Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Nicky Butt, and Ryan Giggs, who are co-owners of Salford City.
The Red Knights
The Red Knights are a group of wealthy United supporters which count ex-Football League chairman Keith Harris, former Goldman Sachs chief economist Lord O’Neill, and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall among their ranks.
A US private equity firm
Back in August, there were several reports that the New York-based private equity firm Apollo were in talks to buy a minority stake of the club.
A sovereign wealth fund
Unlike Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, Dubai is yet to acquire a Premier League football club, with the nation’s sovereign wealth fund reported as a potential bidder for United.
The statement from the Glazers to the New York Stock Exchange confirmed earlier reports and revealed the club’s next steps.
The statement says: “Manchester United plc, one of the most successful and historic sports clubs in the world, announces today that the Company’s Board of Directors is commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives for the club.
“The process is designed to enhance the club’s future growth, with the ultimate goal of positioning the club to capitalise on opportunities both on the pitch and commercially.
“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.”
Executive Co-Chairmen and Directors, Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer added: “The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers. As we seek to continue building on the Club’s history of success, the Board has authorised a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives.
“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximises the significant growth opportunities available to the Club today and in the future. Throughout this process we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans, shareholders, and various stakeholders.”
The statement continued: “The Raine Group is acting as the Company’s exclusive financial advisor and Latham & Watkins LLP is legal counsel to the Company. Rothschild and Co. is acting as exclusive financial advisor to the Glazer family shareholders.
“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.”