Manchester United fans last night warned Malcolm Glazer that they will continue campaigning against any takeover plans he has after the American businessman yesterday increased his stake in the club from 19.2 per cent to 25.3 per cent.
The 76-year-old American expanded his holding by spending £45m on 15.4m shares just a day after it seemed that his attempts at a buy-out had been holed below the waterline. While yesterday's move still leaves him several large hurdles from effective control, it signals his continued predatory interest.
On Thursday he was told by United's biggest shareholders, John Magnier and J P McManus, that they were unwilling to sell him their 28.89 per cent stake, owned via their Cubic Expression company. That has evidently not deterred Glazer, but as long as the Irishmen's position does not change, he is likely to find it hard to accumulate more than half of United's stock.
Even if he acquired more than 29.9 per cent, which would oblige him to make a bid for the remainder under Stock Exchange rules, Cubic could still say no, as could supporters who own around 18 per cent cumulatively, and City institutions who own another 20 per cent also in small holdings.
"I think Glazer is just trying to outmuscle United and outmuscle Cubic Expression," said Andy Walsh, a spokesman for the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association. "I wouldn't be surprised if Glazer's next move is to demand seats on the board." Asked what Glazer's next move should be, Walsh replied: "He's not welcome, plain and simple. Clear off."
One group of fans spent yesterday protesting against Glazer outside the London Stock Exchange. "Last night was good news, we thought," said Richard Stubbs of the Shareholders United and Red Action groups. "Now we've heard that Malcolm Glazer isn't giving up. We need to keep working to make sure Glazer goes away.
"We don't want to pay three times the price of tickets. We don't want the club to go into debt. We fought off Murdoch. We'll fight off Glazer and anybody else who tries to buy Manchester United."
Plans for a series of direct action protests, including on-pitch protests in England and at Glazer's NFL club, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Florida are already under way.