Gill flies out as the Glazers move in

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The Independent Football

The Manchester United chief executive David Gill flew to Florida yesterday to decide whether he wants to implement Malcolm Glazer's aggressive new business plan on the day when the American billionaire began his reign by installing his sons Joel, Bryan and Avram on the club's board.

The Manchester United chief executive David Gill flew to Florida yesterday to decide whether he wants to implement Malcolm Glazer's aggressive new business plan on the day when the American billionaire began his reign by installing his sons Joel, Bryan and Avram on the club's board.

The choice facing Gill is stark and, if he believes that the plan by Glazer, which involves about £800m of borrowing, is unworkable, the United chief executive will have to resign and leave the club in the hands of its new American owners.

However, there were signs yesterday that Gill, despite his original opposition to a Glazer takeover, is prepared to work under the new regime.

The widely anticipated resignation of United's independent directors - the chairman Sir Roy Gardner, Ian Much and Jim O'Neill - was confirmed yesterday and it is they who have been sacrificed for the original opposition to Glazer's previous attempts to take over the club.

But the re-appointment of Andy Anson, the former commercial director, is a sure sign the Glazers are prepared to make small concessions to keep Gill, who appointed Anson in February last year only to see him voted off the board, along with three other directors, after the AGM in November when the Glazers exacted their revenge for the opposition to them from within the club. It was a blow to Gill, who was left with just Nick Humby as a fellow executive, and he kept Anson at the club in the hope that he could re-appoint him in the future.

That the Glazers have brought back an executive they have already voted off on a previous occasion suggests that they are prepared to give Gill the executive team he wants to run the club. With Joel now likely to assume the role of chairman - United are currently without one for the first time in their 127-year history - and his brothers making up the rest of the non-executives, there will be increased pressure on Gill, Anson and Humby.

If they decide to help implement the Glazer plan, they are aware that many United fans will regard their endorsement of the new regime as unacceptable. However, sources at United have indicated that the continuity and expertise that Gill, in particular, would offer the club would be the best way for it to adapt to life under the new ownership. Gill has not seen any details of the Glazers' business plan since they announced their acquisition of J P McManus and John Magnier's 28.89 per cent holding on 12 May.

The Glazers arranged two blocks of funding valued at £275m and £265m which will be transferred to United's balance sheet as debt and there are also fears that the £272m equity the family put up has also been borrowed against the value of the club. In order to revitalise United's profits, which were only £9m profits after tax in the last six-monthly figures, they are expected to implement a range of unpopular measures.

These would include raising ticket prices, which have traditionally been protected by the board and have not kept pace with the rate of increase in spending on player transfers at Manchester United.

The sale and leaseback of Old Trafford is also a possibility after Gardner revealed last month that the Glazers had refused to make any legally binding assurances concerning how they planned to increase profits at United.

If Gill stays on with Anson and Humby, the three, who live around Manchester, would have to bear the unpopularity of the Glazer regime while the other three directors remain out of reach in America.

Although security has been stepped up around United officials, there is no sense of panic at the club and Gill is expected to make a decision after tomorrow's G-14 meeting of Europe's most powerful clubs.

Glazer's offer to existing shareholders of £3 a share will expire at 3pm next Monday and the American will be able to assess how much of the club he now owns. If he has acquired more than 90 per cent of the stock which lay out of his control when he launched the bid, he will be able to make a compulsory purchase of the remainder.

Glazer is expected to de-list the company from the Stock Exchange by the end of the month.

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