'Dusk raid' lifts Glazer stake in United to 25.3 per cent

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The Independent Online

The US sports tycoon Malcolm Glazer last night kept his Manchester United bid hopes alive by wading into the market and buying a further 6 per cent of the club, lifting his stake to 25.3 per cent.

The US sports tycoon Malcolm Glazer last night kept his Manchester United bid hopes alive by wading into the market and buying a further 6 per cent of the club, lifting his stake to 25.3 per cent.

In what was described as a "dusk raid", the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston spent £44m buying up 15.4 million shares on behalf of Mr Glazer at 285p each - 10 per cent above the prevailing market price.

The surprise move followed confirmation that United's biggest shareholders, the Irish horse racing duo of John Magnier and JP McManus, had ended talks to sell their 29 per cent stake to Mr Glazer.

Despite the setback, a London Stock Exchange announcement from the club made it clear that Mr Glazer was continuing to consider all his options "including the possibility of making an offer". A bid could value the club, the world's biggest by revenues, at £800m.

Sources close to the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football team said Mr Glazer had taken the opportunity to raise his stake to put himself on a more equal footing with Cubic Expression, the investment company which holds the McManus-Magnier stake. One said: "What he has done is move to a position of much closer parity with the Irish. That puts a different perspective on things, depending on what options he may consider in the future."

CSFB's market raid came at the end of a roller-coaster day for United shares which saw them fall 7 per cent at one point as bid hopes faded, before ending the day 8 per cent higher at 285p. At that level, United is valued at £747m.

Dealers said the emergence of two large minority shareholders in the club, each with a similar stake, created the potential for a "Mexican stand-off" as Mr Glazer continues to track his prey. There is no particular indication that Cubic is planning to use its 29 per cent stake as the platform to launch a bid of its own. A spokesman for Mr McManus and Mr Magnier reiterated that they were long-term value investors in Manchester United.

Meanwhile Keith Harris, the head of the investment bank Seymour Pierce and a former Football League chairman, is still trying to put together a deal to restructure United, with the objective of preventing any one individual taking control.

CSFB bought the shares from a number of City institutions but in one deal 7.4 million shares equivalent to a 2.8 per cent stake changed hands. UBS is thought to have sold most of its 3.1 per cent stake. It is understood that CSFB is seeking to buy up to 18 million shares in United. If it succeeds in mopping up the additional 2.2 million, it will lift Mr Glazer's stake to 26.3 per cent, leaving him a short distance behind the Irish.

A spokesman for the Glazer family said: "The Glazers remain committed to Manchester United. They think it is a great club and they want to see it succeed."

Sources close to the Glazer camp denied that the talks with Cubic Expression had broken down over price. Mr Glazer offered the Irish 300p a share for their holding but was rebuffed. Just because they had been prepared to listen to Mr Glazer did not mean they were about to do a deal with him.

Earlier in the day Manchester United supporters who are also shareholders held protests against the Glazer bid outside the Stock Exchange and the offices of JP Morgan and Brunswick, respectively Mr Glazer's investment banking and public relations advisers.

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