Glazer buoyed by positive shareholder soundings

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The Independent Online

Malcolm Glazer has made approaches to "smaller but significant" Manchester United shareholders to prepare for a swift, sudden takeover when he deems the time is right.

Malcolm Glazer has made approaches to "smaller but significant" Manchester United shareholders to prepare for a swift, sudden takeover when he deems the time is right.

The 76-year-old American owns 28.11 per cent of United, just behind the Irish racing tycoons, John Magnier and J P McManus, who own 28.89 per cent. Glazer wants their stake and will soon reopen talks to buy it. That deal may take some time and in the interim Glazer is sounding out other shareholders in readiness for the full takeover bid that will be triggered if he buys from the Irishmen.

Foremost among those being sounded out is Harry Dobson, the Scottish-born mining millionaire whose 6.48 per cent stake makes him the club's third-largest shareholder, behind the Irishmen's Cubic Expression company and Glazer.

Representatives working for Glazer approached Dobson this week to ask whether he would sell. They learned he will, although they were not given a price. "I told them I was not interested in a 'fishing expedition' and that they should make me an offer," Dobson said. "I would not rule out selling the shares. This was a pure investment and with an investment you decide whether to buy, sell, or hold."

Dobson paid around £21.6m in 2002 for his shares, which are now worth around £48m. His willingness to sell, even in theory, will buoy Glazer's confidence.

Until a deal is done with the Irish, Glazer is "in no hurry" to take his current holding above 29.99 per cent, at which level he would be required under Stock Market regulations to bid for the whole club. Glazer's biggest hurdle is funding, with doubts lingering that he can offer up-front cash payments for shares, crucially Cubic's.

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