Manchester United could finally be sold by its American owners after a 17-year reign dominated by fan protests and deteriorating performances on the pitch.
Sky News can exclusively reveal that the Glazer family are set to formally announce their intention to explore possible sources of outside investment, which could include a full auction of arguably the world’s most famous football club.
Manchester United’s owners have instructed investment bankers on Tuesday to advise on the process, which is likely to involve a full or partial sale or a strategic partnership with third parties, sources said.
An announcement confirming their intentions could come soon, one of them said.
As a result, Manchester United’s share price immediately rose by 17%, increasing the club’s market capitalization by almost $400 million, according to football finance expert Kieran Maguire.
The announcement of a review of financial options, which could include a sale process, would mean an end to years of speculation over whether the Glazers could be persuaded to let go of a club that has seen almost unlimited football decline over the past decade.
United have not won the Premier League title since 2013 and have sacked several managers since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
More recently, the club has been embroiled in a legal battle with Cristiano Ronaldo over an interview in which he questioned United’s ambitions and questioned the Glazers’ approach to winning it.
United announced on Tuesday that Ronaldo had left “with immediate effect”.
What are the possible outcomes?
It remains possible that the family, which took control of United in 2005 in a £790m deal largely financed by debt, may choose not to sell.
One possible outcome of the process is a partial sale to new investors, raising capital to fund the overdue redevelopment of Old Trafford.
The Glazers have recognized the need for fresh investment in infrastructure to transform the stadium into a truly world-class venue, while significant funds are also needed to allow the men’s team to compete again at the top of the European game.
United’s valuation in the event of a sale would inevitably exceed the roughly $2.15 billion market capitalization implied by its share price in Tuesday’s New York Stock Exchange trading session.
Reports in recent months have suggested that any deal would need to value the club at between £5bn and £9bn to convince the owners to sell.
The Glazers took a minority stake in the company in 2012, but retained overwhelming control through a dual-class share structure that means they own almost all of the voting rights.
For more than 18 months, the club has promised to introduce a modest fan ownership scheme that would give fans shares with the same voting rights structure as the Glazers.
However, the initiative has not yet been launched, despite the promise that it will be operational by 2021-2022. for the start of the season.
It was one of several commitments made by United co-chairman Joel Glazer following the collapse of the European Super League (ESL), in which the club played a central 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 controversy.
In May 2021, United fans forced the postponement of a home game against rivals Liverpool after a protest against ESL and the Glazer family.
“Love United, hate Glazer” has become a familiar refrain during their tenure, with supporters criticizing an alleged lack of investment in the club’s infrastructure, while the owners have reaped hundreds of millions of pounds in dividends from its constant promotion. success.
If a formal sales process is initiated, the focus will be on the identities of potential buyers.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the Ineos billionaire who has supported United since childhood, said in August that he wanted to buy the club but has since suggested that the names of English football’s elite are overrated.
Billionaires from around the world will be linked with bids, as will sovereign investors seeking to emulate takeovers seen at Newcastle United, now owned by Saudi Arabian state-backed investors, and Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain.
There will also be speculation that the Red Knights consortium, led by former United director and leading economist Lord O’Neill, could revive a takeover bid launched in 2010.
Significantly, the upcoming Manchester United auction comes as Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, are also considering selling all or part of the club.
Simultaneous sales processes for two of English football’s so-called “big six” – Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – would be unprecedented.
One analyst said the weather suggests some investors believe the value of top clubs could be nearing a peak, especially given the tough global economic outlook for the coming years.
United are also likely to make the announcement during a World Cup fueled by Gulf petrodollars, underscoring the funding drift of the global soccer industry.
Manchester United declined to comment on Tuesday.
Analysis: ‘Huge progress for Manchester United’
Sky Sports News reporter Ben Ransom:
“It’s a huge development when you consider the fact that the Glazers have always said since they took over in 2005 that they are fully committed to this Manchester United ownership model and are committed to the future.
“When you consider that just up the M62 there’s a similar situation in Liverpool – two American owners potentially looking to drive clubs, it’s a pretty remarkable moment.
“And that, I think, is a real insight into how they see the future and the potential future difficulties of challenging at the top of the Premier League.”