Takeover will net directors a fortune

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The Independent Online
THE MAIN beneficiary of British Sky Broadcasting's takeover of Manchester United will be Martin Edwards, the club's chief executive, who was willing to sell the club for pounds 20m nine years ago, and is now about to make a personal fortune. Mr Edwards will receive pounds 88m in return for his 14 per cent stake in the club.

Maurice Watkins, a long-standing director and partner at the club's solicitors, will receive pounds 12m for his 2 per cent stake. Other directors of the club, including David Gill, finance director; Peter Kenyon, deputy chief executive; and Amer Al- Midani, a businessman, will share more than pounds 6m.Sir Roland Smith, the club's chairman, will miss out on the windfall as he does not own any shares.

The remaining pounds 520m will be divided up between fund managers who hold Manchester United shares and the club's 20,000-odd private shareholders, many of whom are fans.

The deal marks the end of a remarkable run for Mr Edwards, who almost sold Manchester United to Michael Knighton, a businessman and former United director, for a fraction of its present value in 1989. However, the deal fell through when Mr Knighton failed to raise the cash. He now owns Carlisle United.

In 1994, when the club floated on the stock market in a share issue that almost failed through lack of interest from investors, it was valued at less than pounds 50m. Since then it has gone from strength to strength - and not just on the pitch. In the 1996-97 season, Manchester United had a total turnover of pounds 88m. A third of that came from gate receipts. But the fastest-growing parts were television revenues, which doubled to pounds 12.6m, and income from sponsorship, which almost doubled to pounds 5.84m.

The deal will be a prize asset for Rupert Murdoch, whose News International company has a 40 per cent stake in BSkyB. It is confirmation that the media mogul's business plan has moved from owning the television rights to sport to controlling the sport itself. A key figure in negotiations will have been Mark Booth, chief executive of BSkyB.

Sellers and Buyers: Who Benefits from the Deal?

Martin Edwards

United's chief executive

He will receive pounds 88m for his 14 per cent stake

Sir Roland Smith

Club chairman

Does not own shares and will miss out on windfall

Maurice Watkins

Club director

His 2 per cent stake will earn him pounds 12m

David Gill

Club finance director

One of three board members who will share in pounds 6m

Rupert Murdoch

Controlling shareholder in BSkyB - supervised the deal in London yesterday

Mark Booth

Chief executive of BSkyB

A key figure in

the negotiations