Manchester United are effectively up for sale; Man Utd share price up 17 per cent straight after the news, adding almost £336.4m ($400m) to the club’s market capitalisation, according to finance expert Kieran Maguire
The American owners of Man Utd are willing to listen to offers for the club after a 17-year reign dominated by fan protests and declining on-pitch performance
If the club – valued at around £5bn – is sold, it is expected to be purchased by US investors.
A Manchester United statement confirmed plans to identify “strategic alternatives” and said the process will consider a number of options “including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”.
Executive co-chairmen and directors Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer said: “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 Raine Group, which facilitated the sale of Chelsea over the summer, is acting as United’s exclusive financial adviser, with Rothschild and Co performing the same role to the Glazer family shareholders.
The announcement of a review of financial options that could include a sale process would signal an end to years of speculation over whether the Glazers might be persuaded to offload a club which for the past decade have experienced an almost-unmitigated footballing decline.
United have not won the Premier League title since 2013, and have sacked a succession of managers in the aftermath of the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
More recently, the club have become embroiled in a legal fight with Cristiano Ronaldo over an interview in which he questioned United’s ambition and lambasted the Glazers’ approach to owning it.
It remains possible the Glazer family, which took control of United in 2005 in a £790m deal largely funded by debt, opt not to sell.
A partial sale to new investors, with capital being raised to fund an overdue redevelopment of Old Trafford, is one potential outcome from the process.
The Glazers have acknowledged the need for new infrastructure investment to transform the stadium into a genuinely world-class venue, while substantial funds are also required to enable the men’s team to compete once more at the top of the European game.
United’s valuation in a sale would inevitably exceed the roughly $2.15bn market capitalisation implied by their share price during Tuesday’s trading session on the New York Stock Exchange.
Reports in recent months have speculated any transaction would need to value the club at anywhere between £5bn and £9bn to persuade the owners to sell.
The Glazers listed a minority stake in the company in 2012 but retained overwhelming control through a dual-class share structure which means they hold almost all voting rights.
For more than 18 months, the club have been promising to introduce a modestly sized supporter ownership scheme that would give fans shares with the same structure of voting rights as the Glazers.
The initiative has, however, yet to be launched despite a pledge to have it operational by the start of the 2021-22 season.
It was one of a number of commitments made by Joel Glazer, United’s co-chairman, in the wake of the European Super League (ESL) debacle, in which the club played a pivotal role.
Manchester United were one of six Premier League teams to agree to join the project, which collapsed within hours of its official launch amid public and political acrimony.
In May 2021, United fans forced the postponement of a home match against rivals Liverpool after protesting against the ESL and the Glazer family.
‘Love United, hate Glazer’ has become a familiar refrain during their tenure, with supporters critical of a perceived lack of investment in the club’s infrastructure while the owners have extracted hundreds of millions of pounds-worth of dividends as a result of their continued commercial success.
If a formal sale process is initiated, attention will turn to the identities of potential buyers.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the Ineos billionaire who has supported United since childhood, said in August he was keen to buy the club but has since suggested English football’s elite names are overvalued.
Billionaires from around the world will be linked to bids, as will sovereign investors seeking to emulate the kinds of takeovers seen at Newcastle United – now owned by Saudi state-backed investors – and Paris Saint-Germain, who are Qatari-owned.
There will also be speculation the Red Knights, a consortium led by former United director and leading economist Lord O’Neill, could revive an attempt initiated in 2010 to take control of the club.