Just as Manchester United fans thought it was safe to go back in the water, a large fin was spotted in the shallows around Old Trafford yesterday following reports that Malcolm Glazer has sweetened his offer to buy the 28.9 per cent stake in the club owned by John Magnier and J P McManus.
Talks between the Irish pair's Cubic Expression investment vehicle and the American businessman broke down last month after the two parties failed to reach an agreement over the purchase of the shares. Glazer was thought to have offered £3.10p per share, making Cubic's stake worth approximately £270m. However, this was conditional on Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Bucaneers NFL franchise, being able to gain control of 75 per cent of United's shares by getting the majority of the club's shareholders to back his takeover bid.
Glazer has now reportedly told Cubic that he is prepared to drop that condition and buy them out regardless, making payment once due diligence has been completed - checking that there are no black holes in the club's finances - which would be within seven days of any deal being done.
Sources in Ireland categorically denied yesterday that Glazer had been back in touch with Cubic Expression, and hinted that the Irishmen may not sell to him anyway.
United shares rose 0.5 per cent on the London Stock Exchange after lunch yesterday to 287 pence.
The American businessman had not received a reply from Cubic Expression by yesterday afternoon, nor any indication as to whether the Irish find the terms acceptable. However, the news will be greeted with shock by United supporters, who had mounted a vigorous campaign to prevent Glazer taking over.
The renewed offer will also come as a surprise to the United board, who had ended negotiations with Glazer because of the high level of debt he was believed to require to complete any takeover. Glazer's "preliminary approach" had put United in an Offer Period but that has now ended as a result of the club's most recent statement on the matter.
Glazer, though, has proved himself to be persistent in his desire to own the world's richest football club. Within 24 hours of Cubic's original rejection, he launched a raid on the stock market and over the course of 72 hours took his stake in the club from 19.1 per cent to 28.1 per cent - only just short of the 30 per cent holding that would oblige him to make an offer for the remaining shares.
The widespread opposition to his involvement which included a massive anti-Glazer demonstration before the recent Premiership victory over Arsenal is sure to intensify. But all parties know that if Glazer can cut a deal with Cubic he would have a stake in excess of 50 per cent, which would effectively give him control.
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