‘Manchester United plc, one of the most successful and historic sports clubs in the world, announces today that the Company’s Board of Directors is commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives for the club,’ a club statement read on November 22 last year.
It was the moment many United fans had been waiting for as the Glazers effectively announced they were open to bringing their deeply unpopular 17-and-a-half-year-spell in charge of the club to an end.
The statement continued: ‘The process is designed to enhance the club’s future growth, with the ultimate goal of positioning the club to capitalize on opportunities both on the pitch and commercially.
‘As part of this process, the Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the Company.’
The subsequent months have seen several rumours circle with significant interest emerging in one of the world’s leading clubs from all over the globe.
Formal bids to take over Manchester United are due to be submitted in the next week or so
The Glazer family first announced they were ready to sell Manchester United last November
The Glazers – who began their ownership with a leveraged £790million buyout in 2005 – have been busy marketing the club.
Co-owner Avram Glazer reportedly flew to the World Cup in Qatar where he is said to have held a number of informal meetings with potential investors.
United even opened a pop-up shop in the Swiss ski resort of Davos during the recent meeting of the World Economic Forum in a bid to raise its profile among wealthy attendees.
US investment bank Raine – who organised the sale of Chelsea to American Todd Boehly last year in a £4.25billion deal – is running the sale on behalf of the Glazer family.
Sportsmail previously reported how the cost of the club, which is expected to attract initial offers of at least £4billion, has attracted considerable interest from potential buyers in the US, the Middle East and Asia.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe became the first potential bidder to put his hat into the ring in January and Sportsmail exclusively revealed on Tuesday that a group of Qatari private investors are also set to bid for the club. Furthermore, it’s understood that United have already opened talks with the group.
The Glazers are thought to want between £6-8bn for the club which is likely to put some buyers off.
Nevertheless, with formal bids set to be submitted in the next week – with United having created a deadline of February 17 for offers – Sportsmail takes a deeper look at the runners and riders currently in the process.
The family’s tenure at United has been marked by fan protests since they took over in 2005
Sir Jim Ratcliffe
The 70-year-old was the first party to throw his hat into the ring to purchase United after long-flirting with the idea of buying a Premier League club.
Ratcliffe was in the running to buy Chelsea last year before the Blues were eventually sold to a consortium led by Todd Boehly.
Back in the summer, before United were up for sale, Ratcliffe – through his company Ineos – announced his interest in taking over the Red Devils if they were ever put on the market.
‘If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer,’ a spokesperson for Ineos told The Times.
‘If something like this was possible, we would be interested in talking with a view to long-term ownership.’
Furthermore, in October, Ratcliffe admitted: ‘If [United] had been for sale in the summer then, yes, we would have probably had a go following on from the Chelsea thing.’
British billionaire and Man United fan Sir Jim Ratcliffe has emerged as an early front-runner
He also revealed how his favourite moment following United was being there when they made their late comeback to win the Champions League in 1999 against German giants Bayern Munich, while he was born in Failsworth in Greater Manchester.
Ineos have gradually become more involved in sport over recent years, with the businessman buying French club Nice for £91m in 2019 two years after purchasing Swiss team FC Lausanne-Sport.
They also have ties to the Mercedes F1 team, British sailing legend Ben Ainslie and they are a performance partner to the All Blacks, while they also sponsor the cycling team, Ineos Grenadiers – previously Team Sky.
He then confirmed his interest in purchasing United last month after they had been officially put up for sale when a spokesperson for the billionaire simply said: ‘We have formally put ourselves into the process.’
Ratcliffe – who met with co-chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer for formal talks last year – has since not said much about what he would do if his bid was successful.
However, when the interest arose back in the summer, Ineos explained that Ratcliffe would use investment to upgrade current infrastructure such as the deteriorating Old Trafford, and he stated there was a need to press the ‘reset’ button.
‘This is not about the money that has been spent or not spent,’ the spokesperson had said back in August.
Ratcliffe’s company Ineos owns Ligue 1 side Nice after they purchase the club for £91m in 2019
Britain’s richest man has flirted with the idea of buying a Premier League club in recent years
‘Jim is looking at what can be done now and, knowing how important the club is to the city, it feels like the time is right for a reset.’
However, Sportsmail has previously reported that United officials have been privately scathing about Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s plans to bid for the club, believing he has only entered the process to secure positive publicity for Ineos and that he has no intention of meeting the Glazers’ asking price.
Sportsmail also reported that Ratcliffe could be edged out of the bidding if the Glazers hold out for the maximum price, handing a boost to another potential runner in the process – a group of private Qatari investors.
It must first be noted that this group of investors from the Gulf state would be separate to the Qatar Sports Investments’ ownership of Paris Saint-Germain, Sportsmail understands – and QSI would not present a problem in their attempts to take over United.
This group comprises a number of wealthy individuals from the oil-rich state who are buoyed by Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup and have now set their sights on a club they view as ‘football’s crown jewels’.
They are expecting to make an offer for the club ahead of the mid-February deadline and are confident their bid will blow the competition out of the water. This belief is strengthened by the revelation that United have already sat down at the table with the group, and talks are ongoing.
It can also be disclosed that the group are already making plans for what should happen if they are successful.
They want to arm manager Erik ten Hag with a vast transfer war chest in order to take United back to the top of world football, which is where they feel the club belongs.
A group of private, high-wealth individuals based in the oil-rich state, buoyed by Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup, have set their sights on a club they view as ‘football’s crown jewels’
United boss Erik ten Hag would be set to get a massive transfer kitty if the deal went through
The group is aware that the club’s current owners, the Glazer family, are seeking north of £6bn for the club and that there is a potential cost of £2bn to either redevelop or rebuild Old Trafford but this is not thought to be a problem.
They would also be very keen on fan engagement – which is likely to be music to the ears of United fans – and they may well seek the views of supporters on the future of the stadium.
Furthermore, the Emir of Qatar, head of its absolute monarchy, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is a committed United fan who is well aware of the club’s history.
In 2011, it was reported that the Al Thani family had an offer of more than £1bn for United turned down by the Glazers.
‘There are significant funds available,’ the group told Sportsmail on Tuesday. ‘These people are serious. They want to make sure that United are where they should be and they are confident theirs will be the strongest bid.
PSG chief Nasser Al Khelaifi is also the chairman of Qatar Sports Investments but Sportsmail understands QSI would not present a problem in this group’s attempts to take over United
‘They want to strengthen the squad to put them back at the top but they also want this to be for the good of the community.
‘They also want to build on the success of the World Cup. They recognise that Manchester United is the biggest football club in the world, the crown jewels, and there is a steely-minded determination to buy it and get it to where it should be.’
Ratcliffe and the Qatari group are the obvious front-runners for the ownership of the club, but until the bidding process is concluded, other interested parties are as of yet unconfirmed.
However, several individuals and groups are rumoured to be keen to take over United.
With the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund owning 80 per cent of Newcastle, one would expect a Saudi consortium to be ruled out of the running for United.
However, with Sportsmail reporting how there is interest in the club from the US, the Middle East and Asia, Saudi interest is not something that should be ruled out.
This is especially after comments from the Gulf state’s sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal.
Regarding both United and Liverpool being put up for sale last year, he told BBC Sport in November that the state’s involvement with Newcastle wouldn’t stop private bidders from purchasing another Premier League club.
He said: ‘From the private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there’s a lot of passion about football.
Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said he wouldn’t stop private investors from the Gulf state purchasing another Premier League club
‘It’s the most-watched league in Saudi and the region and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League.
‘We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that’s going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom.
‘But if there’s an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?’
However, no official group or individual from Saudi Arabia has publicly declared their interest in buying United.
Interest from US tech giant Apple emerged in November, with the Daily Star reporting they were interested in acquiring the club for £5.8bn.
It came as a surprise because Apple have never previously owned a sports team and as such it would be a mammoth job to take control of one of the biggest football teams in the world.
As music streaming platform Spotify are finding now, as shirt and stadium sponsor of Spanish team FC Barcelona, the commercial opportunities that United would provide are said to be a primary factor in their interest.
However, there have been no further reports of Apple’s interest since November so a bid for the club now seems unlikely.
A top priority for United’s new owner will be to upgrade their famous ground, Old Trafford
Apple CEO Tim Cook (left) and Spanish fashion billionaire Amancio Ortega (right) were also linked with purchasing the Red Devils after they were put up for sale in November last year
Spanish fashion billionaire Amancio Ortega has never been involved in owning or running a professional sports team, but he was another party to reportedly inform United executives of his interest.
The 86-year-old, who is the founder of fashion giant Zara, is reported to be worth $59.6bn (£49.1bn), according to Forbes’ billionaire rich-list.
The Manchester Evening News detailed in November that Ortega had ‘already spoken to Old Trafford executives’ to declare his interest in buying United, but the amount he is willing to pay for it remained undisclosed.
Ortega owns 59 per cent of the Inditex clothing empire, which he started in 1975, and last year appointed his daughter, Maria Ortega Perez, as chairwoman of Zara.
However, like with Apple, there has been limited reports to further this interest and Ortega has not publicly thrown his hat into the ring.
Furthermore, a spokesperson for Ortega officially confirmed to Sportsmail on Thursday that the businessman had no interest in buying the club, thereby ruling him out of the running.
They said: ‘Pontegadea, investment and asset management company of the Ortega family, denies the existence of signs of interest in the acquisition of the Manchester United club.’
Fans have continually protested against the Glazers since their £790m takeover in May 2005
David Beckham-led consortium
The Financial Times reported in November that former United star David Beckham was open to holding talks with potential buyers of the club in order to form a consortium.
Beckham – who co-owns MLS team Inter Miami and is a part-owner at Salford City – is unable to afford the Premier League giants on his own, but his involvement in a bid could be beneficial to any prospective buyers due to his history with the club.
His former team-mate at Old Trafford Rio Ferdinand revealed in November that he had spoken to Beckham about his role in a potential takeover, adding fuel to the fire that the 47-year-old could be part of a takeover bid for the club.
‘Becks will come with a consortium’, Ferdinand had told Vibe with Five.
‘I saw Becks last night at the [England vs USA World Cup] game, I went to the England game and we were sat next to each other. He smelt beautiful, looked beautiful. He looked a million dollars, as he normally does. He didn’t look 10 billon dollars’ worth.
David Beckham has said ‘he is open to holding talks’ with any potential buyers of Man United
Beckham’s ex-United team-mate Rio Ferdinand said the pair had spoken about a consortium
‘But when you mention someone like Becks’ name, he’s obviously a part-owner of Inter Miami, but he doesn’t come [alone]. It’s not his money.
‘It’s not him in terms of putting his hand in his pocket. He comes with a consortium. He comes with people who do have deep pockets who have the ability to go and execute on a deal like that.
‘So that’s the way he’ll be approaching it, and rightly so. I just think it’s going to come down to a number. If you’ve got the number, and you can produce, that’s what it’s going to be about.’
It is evident that there are several interested parties in purchasing Manchester United off the Glazers.
The picture on potential new owners of the club will become much clearer over the coming weeks and months as bids are submitted and others emerge as strong contenders.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe and the private Qatari investors seem to be the early front-runners at this current stage, but it remains to be seen who will hold the keys to Old Trafford when the bidding process concludes.