Business View : Glazer's Man Utd strikers blunted by the Irish defence

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The Independent Online

After the negotiations that might have led to Manchester United being bought by Malcolm Glazer broke down on Friday, I asked a friend of Man U's 29.9 per cent shareholders, J P McManus and John Magnier, whether they might reopen talks with the Glazer camp. "Business people listen," came the reply.

The implication was that Mr Glazer and his sons, Joel and Avi, who are running the attempt to buy Man U, are not really business minded. They are pursuing a dream.

The McManus and Magnier camp have made it clear that their investment in Man U is a long-term value play. At the moment, its value is some £250m, about £60m more than they paid for it. If at some point someone makes them an offer they cannot refuse, they will accept it. The Glazer party has not come close.

And to the frustration of the Glazers, and their backer, JP Morgan, the Irish duo have not shown their hand. In Dublin, talk is they might sell at 320p a share - some 45p higher than Man U closed at on Friday and about 25p more than the Glazers had indicated they might pay.

Which leaves us at an impasse. The Glazers bought another 6.3 per cent on Friday night, probably from mining magnate Harry Dobson, giving them 25.5 per cent of the club. They will almost certainly continue buying up to 29.9 per cent. They could then sit there, putting pressure on the Irish, or they could make an offer. But they will find it difficult to get what they want.

With the Irish at 29.9 per cent and small shareholders (mostly fans and mostly opposed to the Glazers) owning just 18 per cent, it is theoretically possible to get economic control of the club. But the Glazers want more than that. They want to take it private and release Man U from the pressures of being a plc. For that they need 90 per cent of the shares, which on the current reckoning is impossible.

Unless the Glazers can satisfy Messrs McManus and Magnier, Man U will be in for another extended bout of instability. Which, as an Arsenal fan, I can only welcome.

Pensions pain

For a rather dry stick, Adair Turner has quite a good sense of humour. When he was director-general of the CBI, he once opened a meeting by pointing out that he was the ubiquitous "business leaders" often mentioned in the press.

His report into the pensions crisis was no laughing matter, though. It correctly identified the huge shortfall in saving for retirement in this country and suggested tough decisions had to be taken about issues such as more taxpayers' money going into pensions or people working longer.

But one thing he missed was the great mistrust that many of us have for the people who might provide our pensions. Over many years, government policy has pushed people into the arms of the long-term savings industry - be it through the contracting-out of Serps (which prompted a personal pensions boom) or through tax breaks for taking out pensions, PEPs or ISAs.

Yet time after time this industry has let us down. There has been pensions mis-selling, endowment mis-selling, the Equitable Life collapse, the split-capital trust scandal. Investments tend to come with onerous fees, complex rules and confusing literature. I have more than a dozen different equity savings plans and I regret almost all of them. I'm sure many people are in the same boat.

The long-term savings industry has put many people off saving. On top of other reforms to help solve the pensions crisis, cleaning out this Augean stable is overdue.

Barclays plants its flag

Bob Diamond, the boss of Barclays Capital, likes golf. That's why the investment banking arm of Barclays has backed golfer Darren Clarke for the past three years. That's also why Bob partnered Darren in the Dunhill Links competition at St Andrews last weekend. But is it why Barclays Capital has taken over sponsorship of the Westchester Classic, one of the biggest events on the US tour?

Chris Carroll of sports business experts Gem Group says the cost of putting its name on the event will be the thick end of $10m (around £5.5m) a year. This may be less than half Bob Diamond's salary, but it is still a big chunk given that the firm has no retail banking presence in the US. Or at least, not yet.

j.nisse@independent.co.uk

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