So there we are then. It's all over now. Malcolm Glazer has got his control of Manchester United after all. After all, that is, because while there was never much doubt he'd find himself in control of more than 80 per cent of the shares, there was the possibility that he wouldn't quite make it to the 97.5 per cent plus one mark, at which point he could simply expel any troublesome shareholders.
Well, when the offer closed at 3pm on Monday, the American entrepreneur had managed to acquire 97.3 per cent of the shares in acceptance of his offer. He's extended the offer until 27 June, and it is pretty likely he'll make it.
I've accepted the offer of £3 each for my Manchester United shares, and I now need to decide what to do with the money. I'm quite inclined to add to my existing holding in William Hill, or perhaps in Serco or Capita (which, incidentally, owns the share registrars handling the Glazer offer for Man U). They're all sound businesses with excellent growth prospects pretty much whatever happens to the wider UK economy, about which I continue to be nervous. On the other hand, I might just plough the lot into Premium Bonds, on the grounds that they're about the best way I'll have of getting rich quick.
However, accepting the Glazer offer gives me a sense of loss. It would have been nice if the existing management team at Manchester United could have trumped Glazer's ambitious plans so that it wasn't worth us shareholders accepting what was not such a massive premium to the share price. In other words, if Glazer can squeeze all this extra value out of Man Utd, why couldn't the old management team? I would have liked to hold Man U for the long term. Now I can't. Ah, say the doomsters, Glazer will just lard the club up with debt; he doesn't understand it; it's a huge risk. Well, all that is true, and it could end in the virtual destruction of the Club, a national institution and one of Great Britain's few global brands.
MG Rover style we could find ourselves say five or 10 years down the line with a club that has sold off all its assets and simply has nothing left to fall back on when times are hard. That would certainly be a shame. But there is another possibility; that Glazer's plans will come off and that he will become incredibly rich just as the club flourishes under his ownership. Admittedly there isn't much sign of that, which is why I would have preferred the old management to have come up with some plan of their own.
As it stands, it seems my reaction as a shareholder hasn't been so very different to so many devout fans who bought a few shares in the club; they too accepted the offer and have opted not to make Mr Glazer's life miserable. I know some of the proceeds o f these sales will have gone into a charity fund to establish a new Club, but it isn't the kind of "ils ne passeront pas" defence I thought they would put up.
Which leaves me space for a few words on one of my fascinations; internet poker. As you will see elsewhere in these e pages, and as you'll have noticed all week, the City is currently obsessed with the forthcoming flotation of PartyGaming. This company, which makes nothing and seems to contribute little to the sum total of human civilisation is about to enter the FTSE 100, with a market capitalisation of something like £4bn, around the same as Marks & Spencer.
Having owned shares in Sportingbet.com for some time, I consider myself a pioneer in this field, but I am getting worried. I don't know anyone who plays internet poker, nor do I know anyone who would be likely to spend all night on a computer playing cards with people in Tashkent and Taiwan. My exposure to this risky "industry" is high enough. PartyGaming is a a gamble too far.
- More about:
- Brand Marketing
- Financial Markets
- Financial Regulation
- Great Britain
- Manchester United
- Premier League
- Stock And Equity Market And Stock Exchange