The Irish businessmen who own a key stake in Manchester United have reacted coolly to a 300p-a-share offer from Malcolm Glazer, the American tycoon poised to bid for the Premiership club.
Despite standing to make a profit of £70m on their 28.9 per cent stake in the football club, John Magnier and JP McManus have so far not accepted the approach from Mr Glazer and even insist that nothing was formally put to them.
The duo held a telephone conversation with Mr Glazer's camp on Friday. A source close to the Irishmen said: "Contact was made and we listened. No proposal was put, so we're not considering any proposal."
The fate of the shareholding held by the pair's Cubic Expression vehicle will decide whether Mr Glazer can go ahead with a £800m offer for the club. Mr McManus and Mr Magnier have always insisted that they are "long-term" investors, though most believe they are sellers at the right price. Other possible bidders and even a fans' group have expressed interested in acquiring the stake in Cubic.
Were Mr Glazer to acquire the Cubic shareholding, it would be added to his existing 19.2 per cent stake and trigger an automatic bid for the remaining shares. It is understood that his side indicated to the Irishmen that he was willing to pay 300p a share. Mr Glazer believes they are considering it and are likely to accept. There are suggestions however, that the pair want 310p or 320p a share.
Mr Glazer, who is advised by JP Morgan, also faces an uphill battle with Manchester United fans, who own 18 per cent of the club's shares. If 10 per cent or more of those shares vote together against an offer for the club, they will be able to frustrate Mr Glazer's plan to take it private.
Oliver Houston, vice-chairman of Shareholders United, a group for share-owning fans, said his organisation was trying to bring the 37,000 fans' holdings together as a block. The group is concerned that Mr Glazer will have to take on large debts to buy the club and then raise ticket prices to pay this off. Mr Houston said: "He is taking the fans' money to buy our club in order to hand that money over to City investors."
It is thought that Mr Glazer will try to offer assurances on his plan, starting with support for the club's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. There will also be commitments to future investment in the club and the introduction of a forum to give fans a voice in how it is run.Reuse content