The sale of Manchester United is set to reach its first important stage with the soft deadline for potential takeover proposals to be submitted coming on Friday.
Manchester United have been owned by the Glazer family since 2003 but the Americans announced in November last year that they would be putting the club up for sale.
The announcement follows years of unrest and fan protests surrounding their ownership.
Ahead of Friday’s deadline, here is everything you need to know.
What is the deadline?
Friday’s deadline is, crucially, not the deadline for the sale of the club to be agreed. Instead, it is merely a deadline for interested buyers to register their interest and financial capability of buying the club from its current owners.
Bids do not have to be disclosed by the potential new owners with this process merely about gauging interest from interested parties.
What do they have to do before it?
In line with formally registering their interest, each party needs to submit a document to the Glazers by 10pm UK time.
In the document, there will be a paragraph-long statement from the interested buyer explaining how much of the club they want to own and what their offer is.
Who is interested?
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, at this stage, is the only interested party to publicly announce his interest in taking over Manchester United. Britain’s richest man, who also owns French club Nice, is a boyhood United fan and confirmed in January he will be making a bid. The Oldham-born billionaire owns INEOS Group, a British chemical company, and has hired American banks JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs to help him during the process.
Interest from the Middle East is also expected. The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is a United fan and has been suggested as a potential bidder. However, Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) - the state’s wealth fund that the emir owns - already runs Paris Saint-Germain with a bid therefore unlikely unless the sale of the French club is agreed.
There may be interest from private Qatari investors as well but as The Independent’s Miguel Delaney reports, such a move would likely still require state-level sanctioning and therefore would again be a conflict of interest with the state’s current ownership of PSG.
Saudi Arabian bidders are expected but the state-run Public Investment Fund (PIF) - majority owners of Newcastle United since last year – are unable to be one.
American investors may well also look to make a bid for the Premier League club. Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who attempted to buy Chelsea, are thought to be interested while Joel and Avram Glazer may well make a bid to buy out the club from their siblings.
How much will it cost?
The Glazers have set a £5bn valuation on the Premier League club but it is expected that bids after Friday’s deadline will not reach that price initially.
The club has a value of roughly £3bn on the New York Stock Exchange and there is a belief all of Friday’s offers will come in at least 30% under their £5bn valuation.
How long would it take?
There is no exact timeline for the sale of United. When interested parties are revealed after Friday’s soft deadline, the Glazers may well opt to extend the timeline for potential investors to come forward, hoping that a publicity battle will drive up the price buyers are willing to pay.
Should a deal be agreed upon, it would then have to receive ratification from the Premier League. Depending on the source of the money and the nature of the buyer it can vary as to how long this process would take. PIF’s interest in Newcastle was announced in April 2020 but was not finalised until October 2021, for example.
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