Glazer stockpiles even more United shares

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The Independent Online

Malcolm Glazer will not make an "imminent" bid for Manchester United but it is his "unwavering intention" to launch a full takeover offer as soon as he can persuade the club's biggest shareholders to sell, according to a City source.

Malcolm Glazer will not make an "imminent" bid for Manchester United but it is his "unwavering intention" to launch a full takeover offer as soon as he can persuade the club's biggest shareholders to sell, according to a City source.

The claim came yesterday as Glazer, 76, increased his stake in United for the third time in as many trading days by paying £3.62m for another 1.27 million shares.

The American now owns 28.11 per cent of the club, narrowly behind the 28.89 per cent owned by the Irish racing tycoons, John Magnier and J P McManus, via their Cubic Expression company.

Glazer is in "no immediate hurry" to expand his shareholding beyond 29.99 per cent, at which point he would be obliged under Stock Market regulations to make an offer for the whole company.

One source says he is not interested in triggering such a bid only to be rebuffed again by Cubic, who called a halt to talks over their shares last week. Even a triggered bid in which Glazer acquired more than half of United, but not Cubic's shares, is not attractive to the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He wants outright ownership of the club.

The logic behind his strategy makes Cubic the key to Glazer's ambitions. If he can persuade the Irish to sell - and he wants to reopen talks - his holding will shoot to almost 60 per cent. That itself would trigger a mandatory, perhaps decisive, bid for the rest.

Two allies of Cubic, the mining entrepreneur, Harry Dobson, and Celtic's owner, Dermot Desmond, own almost eight per cent of United between them and could then bail out with healthy profits. Dobson, for example, stands to make more than a 100 per cent mark-up on what he paid for his holding - at 127p a share - two years ago. United's shares closed at 283.5p last night, down from 285p.

Small institutional investors, who own up to 20 per cent of United, would also be obliged to listen to offers, even if individual fans, who collectively own more than 10 per cent, would not. In short, if and when Glazer can acquire Cubic's stock, he could rapidly find himself owning more than 80 per cent of the club.

With a 75 per cent holding he would be able to apply to de-list United from the Stock Exchange, and with more than 90 per cent he could apply for compulsory purchase orders on the rest.

Those last pockets of shares, owned by fans including the effective campaigners of Shareholders United, will be the hardest to acquire but even without them Glazer could effectively do as he pleased.

Cubic, who are pivotal to the future of United, are known to be "perfectly happy" with their position as long-term investors.

Yet it is also understood that the Irishmen have no intention of making their own bid for the club. Knowing Glazer depends on them, they can either wait for him to come back with a substantial cash offer or else consider some kind of partnership.

Until Glazer makes his next move, and provides detailed evidence of his financing and plans, Magnier and McManus will decide nothing.

United's chief executive, David Gill, who missed last night's Champions' League match to stay in Manchester and monitor developments, is believed to be reticent about putting pressure on Glazer to declare his intentions.

He is as frustrated as the club's fans at a lack of information from Glazer, but wary of forcing him to be more open. Gill does not like the situation but knows he might have to work with Glazer, takeover or not, for some time.

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