Plans for a takeover of Manchester United could be delayed until May, with the current US-based owners the Glazer family said to be holding out for a better offer, according to British media reports.
The Daily Mail reported this week that the Glazers wanted a bid of at least £6 billion ($7.2 billion, 6.8 billion euros) after initial offers from Qatari’s Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe were lodged at a maximum of £4.5 billion.
The Mail said this might mean a sale of the club, which won its first trophy in six years by collecting the League Cup on Sunday, would not take place until May at the earliest.
In another report, the Guardian said there was indecision among the six Glazer siblings because each had their own view of any takeover but that the sale remained “under serious consideration by the family as a whole”.
Sheikh Jassim, 41, educated at Britain’s elite Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, claims to be a long-time United fan.
He was the first to submit a bid by the ‘soft deadline’ of February 17 and has promised a “completely debt free” takeover of United.
Boyhood United fan Ratcliffe, who was born in the Manchester area, is one of Britain’s wealthiest individuals, with an estimated net worth of £12.5 billion ($15 billion) following the success of INEOS, his global chemical company.
He is keen to expand a sporting portfolio that already includes French football club Nice and Swiss team FC Lausanne-Sport, as well as the cycling team Ineos Grenadiers, formerly Team Sky.
A price tag of around $6 billion would smash the record fee for a football club set when a consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital purchased Chelsea last year.
Russ Mould, investment director at Manchester-headquartered stockbrokers AJ Bell, told AFP on Wednesday: “As bidders continue to circle one of the globe’s most valuable sports franchises, it seems no party has reached the £6 billion valuation put on the business by Manchester United’s current owners.”
Improvement under Ten Hag
United, one of the most successful clubs in English football history, have struggled to keep pace with bitter rivals Manchester City since the retirement of legendary manager Alex Ferguson in 2013.
But under disciplinarian Dutch manager Erik ten Hag, United appear to be on the rise and ended their long wait for silverware by beating Newcastle 2-0 in the League Cup final at Wembley.
They are also third in the Premier League, they beat Barcelona last week to progress to the last 16 of the Europa League and were facing West Ham in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday.
Mould said that with United’s prospects on the pitch looking rosier, the Glazers might think twice about ceding full control of the club.
“Speculation has been growing that should Erik ten Hag’s revolution in performance that has seen Manchester United go through an improved run of form and win their first trophy since 2017 continue, the family could be less willing to sell the club.”
If the Glazers do decide to hang on to all or part of the club, it would be deeply unpopular with United’s supporters, who have frequently demonstrated en masse against the American owners who they accuse of taking money out of the club over the years.