Red Knights want fans to join Old Trafford bid

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The Independent Online

More than 100 potential investors have told the Red Knights, the consortium planning a bid for Manchester United, they want to back its attempt to buy the club from the Glazer family.

One source said: "It's incredible. We have been overwhelmed with interest from individuals all around the world. Fans, hedge funds, private family trusts, private equity financiers and banks have been swamping us with calls saying they would like to be involved."

Interested parties are being told that the ticket into the deal is £10m each. But the Red Knights are also determined to find a way for all the team's fans to be able to own shares – however small the amounts – through their membership.

Another of the consortium's members said: "This bid is, in effect, a social, philanthropic exercise to get the club back into proper ownership and to have the full participation of all the fans from day one." More than a million fans and supporters have registered their support, mainly through social networking sites.

A number of high-profile backers are involved including Jim O'Neill, a Goldman Sachs economist; Keith Harris of Seymour Pierce; Richard Hynter of Saatchi & Saatchi and Mark Rawlinson of City lawyers Freshfields, all in a personal capacity. A former United chairman, Sir Roy Gardner, is also thought to be interested.

This week the Red Knights will appoint a financial adviser, understood to be Guy Dawson of Nomura, to co-ordinate the bid that is likely to value the Old Trafford club at around £900m – and not the £1.5bn figure which has been touted in the press. Mr Dawson, an investment banker, advised United on its £790m takeover by the American Glazer family five years ago, so has invaluable knowledge of the club's finances. Figures from Deloitte's annual football survey last week showed that Man Utd came third in the world after Real Madrid and Barcelona, earning €327m (£295m) of revenue last year.

Another adviser said: "We are not in a rush. We have months not weeks to do this properly and we want to get agreement from the Glazers."

One of the criticisms of the Glazers is the £700m of debt raised to help fund the deal that Mr O'Neill has described as too high and damaging to the club. Mr Glazer complained about Mr O'Neill's comments to Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman, which was the co-manager of the bond, and threatened to pull his business. Suggestions that Mr O'Neill's private comments raised questions over his position were dismissed as nonsense. Goldman said on Friday that it was up to Mr Glazer to decide where to take future business.

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