Overseas tycoons lift stakes in Man Utd

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The Independent Online

The takeover speculation surrounding Manchester United showed no signs of abating yesterday as it emerged that two of the Premiership club's wealthy overseas investors have increased their stakes.

Malcolm Glazer, the billionaire American football magnate, has spent an estimated £20m to raise his shareholding to just below 9 per cent while Jon De Mol, the Dutch creator of the Big Brother television programme, has increased his holding from 3.5 per cent to 4.1 per cent.

The latest sharebuying followed the swoop on Tuesday by the Irish horseracing duo of JP McManus and John Magnier who used their front company Cubic Expression to buy out BSkyB's 10 per cent stake in the club, increasing their holding to nearly a quarter.

Just six outside investors now control almost half of Manchester United shares. In addition to the stakes held by Cubic Expression, Mr Glazer and Mr De Mol's vehicle, Talpa Capital, the mining millionaire Harry Dobson owns 6.54 per cent while the Celtic chairman Dermot Desmond and a mysterious American called Richard Post each own 1.5 per cent. Manchester United's fourth-biggest individual shareholder is its solicitor Maurice Watkins, who holds a 2.3 per cent stake.

Mr Glazer doubled his stake to 5.92 per cent last week and yesterday it was disclosed that his holding had risen to 8.94 per cent, or 23.2 million shares. He is thought to have bought some of his additional shares from the hedge fund Lansdowne, which yesterday disclosed that its holding had fallen from 5.17 per cent on Monday to 3.72 per cent.

The club's runaway share price failed to keep pace with the latest stakebuilding, falling 5 per cent yesterday as investors took profits following the recent surge in the stock. Its stock market value has doubled since the beginning of the year. In the past month it has risen by 30 per cent, making the club worth £611m at last night's closing price.

The Takeover Panel is understood to have been monitoring the club's share price closely following a series of price spikes just before some of its big investors increased their stakes. The Panel may ask a number of shareholders to clarify their intentions towards the club although a club spokesman said last night it had not made any specific request to the Panel along these lines.