Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, would pay more than $1.5 billion for a 25% stake in Manchester United Plc (MANU.N) if his bid for the iconic soccer club were accepted by the Glazer family that controls it, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday. The terms of Ratcliffe’s bid, reported here for the first time, infer a valuation on Manchester United of close to $6 billion, excluding its net debt of more than $600 million. It would be the highest price ever paid for a sports team.
The sale of United is pitting grand wealth and Wall Street alliances against each other in a battle for one of the world’s most famous football assets. Ratcliffe, chairman of chemicals company Ineos Group Holdings SA, has lined up financing for his bid from investors, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The offer, which includes debt, is expected to be submitted to the club’s US owners and other shareholders by late Sunday.
Despite the high-profile nature of the deal, it is still being determined that it will be completed. The process, overseen by the Raine Group, dealt with Roman Abramovich’s sale of Chelsea. It is not a closed shop, and the US-based Glazer family is still considering offers for their controlling shares in the club.
If a deal is done, it will be a significant turning point for Manchester United. The club has struggled on and off the pitch this season, and their current tenth position in the Premier League will not please Erik ten Hag, who was brought in to turn around the club’s fortunes last year.
The biggest issue in any deal will be determining how much influence the new owner is willing to cede to the Glazers. The family has control of the voting shares and will have the final say on any future owner.
In the past, Ratcliffe has shown that he is fearless in making bold decisions. He has made significant investments at his French Ligue 1 side, Nice, and Swiss Super League team, FC Lausanne-Sport, through his investment company INEOS, which has helped them achieve their current success. However, Whether he would be willing to push the reset button at Old Trafford remains to be seen.
Regardless of the outcome, whoever takes charge is expected to seek to weave their influence over on-pitch matters and the management of the club’s players and coaches. Sources suggest that if the deal is completed, Sir Dave Brailsford, who heads up the sporting departments at Ineos and Nice, would be given a role at United. It remains unclear what effect a takeover would have on the structure of the club’s hierarchy and the future of chief executive Richard Arnold, who has been in place since 2017. Regardless of the outcome, it will be a busy week for United with Champions League qualifiers against Copenhagen and Sheffield United before next weekend’s derby.