Shareholders set to disrupt United EGM

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The Independent Online

Shareholders United is considering how it might "filibuster" Malcolm Glazer's takeover of Manchester United, perhaps by disrupting the crucial Extraordinary General Meeting at which Glazer intends to de-list the club from the Stock Exchange and load United with debt.

Shareholders United is considering how it might "filibuster" Malcolm Glazer's takeover of Manchester United, perhaps by disrupting the crucial Extraordinary General Meeting at which Glazer intends to de-list the club from the Stock Exchange and load United with debt.

No date has yet been set for the EGM but it is a mandatory step towards taking the club private. All shareholders have a legal right to be present and if the meeting is flooded by thousands of fans/shareholders, SU has a chance of turning proceedings into a farce, indefinitely delaying two pivotal votes.

The first of those will be on whether to take the club private. The second will be to rubber-stamp the transference of £265m of bank debt - which Glazer has accrued to buy the club - directly on to United's books. Given that Glazer already owns more than 75 per cent of the club, he is certain both votes will go in his favour. However, SU thinks it may be feasible to prevent the votes from taking place at all, and feels it can at least create a logistical nightmare for Glazer.

SU, which was among numerous fans' groups who met in Manchester last night to discuss ways to stymie Glazer's ambitions, yesterday backed Sir Alex Ferguson's call for supporters not to disrupt tomorrow's FA Cup final.

"We wish Sir Alex and the team well and dearly hope to see United lift the FA Cup," SU's vice-chairman, Oliver Houston, said. "SU does not encourage or condone anything violent or illegal and we sincerely hope and expect the match to pass off peacefully. The only thing we ask is for United fans to wear black shirts, black armbands and bring black flags to mark one of the darkest periods in our club's history."

As Glazer's advisors prepare to send out his official offer document - which is likely within the next few days - mystery still surrounds how Glazer intends to make the massive profits necessary at United to fund his total borrowing of £540m.

One option could be some radical money-making ventures, including selling naming rights to Old Trafford, selling the stadium itself in a sale-and-leaseback deal, and massively hiking ticket prices, and then a re-sale of the club. After debt restructuring, Glazer's personal investment in United may be as low as £272m, and any re-sale value above that could be pure profit.

Greg Dyke, a former United director, is among those who believe Glazer will be a short-term owner.

"It could be that he has a trick that we don't know about but you can't conceivably see how he can fund that debt," Dyke said yesterday. "In five years' time I doubt whether the Glazer family will own Manchester United."

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