Manchester United Saga Ends With $1.3 Billion Ratcliffe Deal

Manchester United Saga Ends With $1.3 Billion Ratcliffe Deal – Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has successfully acquired a 25% stake in Manchester United, surpassing competing bids from petro-states and hedge funds, thereby concluding a lively bidding war. Through his chemical conglomerate Ineos Group, Ratcliffe secured the deal at $33 per share, placing the club’s valuation at approximately $5.4 billion, slightly below the initial expectations of $6 billion. 

This decision, involving one of Britain’s wealthiest individuals, signifies the conclusion of a protracted sale process initiated by the Glazer family just over a year ago. The sale process, at times resembling the fervor of Premier League deadline day or the NFL draft, has come to an end with Ratcliffe emerging as the front-runner, as initially reported by Bloomberg.

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Throughout the last year, Ratcliffe faced off against a competing proposal from Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, the third son of Qatar’s former prime minister, in a bid for complete control of the club. However, neither bidder could fulfill the ambition of Manchester United’s co-chairs, Joel and Avram Glazer, to solidify the club as the globe’s most valuable sporting asset.

The Qatari group had been firm about not paying an excessive amount for the club. Prior to the commencement of the bidding war, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, Qatar’s former prime minister and Sheikh Jassim’s father, expressed his lack of enthusiasm for football investments in the Premier League to Bloomberg.

In October, the Qatari faction withdrew their approximately £5 billion offer, likely encompassing debt and various funding extras like the training ground redevelopment. Sources indicate that the Qatari relationship with Raine Group, the overseeing investment bank, had soured.

The manner in which self-made billionaire Ratcliffe will oversee the club alongside Joel and Avram Glazer, who inherited it from their father Malcolm, known for his fortune in real estate and broadcasting, remains to be observed. Ratcliffe’s triumph solidifies his ambitions to construct a personal sporting empire, having previously attempted to acquire Chelsea FC. 

Through his chemical behemoth Ineos, Ratcliffe also possesses France’s Ligue 1 OGC Nice, the cycling group formerly Team Sky, and a stake in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team. The Glazers’ choice to retain ownership of the club is likely to incite frustration among fans who, for years, have been rallying to remove the unpopular owners.

Manchester United came under Malcolm Glazer’s ownership in a 2005 leveraged buyout, burdening the club with substantial debts and fostering skepticism among dedicated supporters. Although initial years under their ownership witnessed continued trophy success under Alex Ferguson, resentment has steadily increased since the renowned coach’s retirement in 2013.

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The Glazer family enlisted the services of investment bank Raine Group, also overseeing the sale of Chelsea FC, to generate interest in the struggling team. While Chelsea experienced intense competition for the deal, Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe emerged as the sole significant parties publicly expressing interest in acquiring Manchester United, as rising interest rates and perceived excessive valuation deterred many potential bidders.

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Several financial entities, such as Elliott Associates LP and Carlyle Group Inc., submitted bids, primarily for minority stakes, as reported by insiders familiar with the situation. At certain junctures, the bidding process took on a chaotic tone. In late March, shortly before the second-round deadline for offers, a cascade of conflicting statements and reports surfaced regarding placed bids, withdrawals, or even non-submissions, prompting additional time for Ratcliffe and Jassim to make their bids.

Now, the focus shifts to how Ratcliffe will revitalize a struggling club plagued by years of underperformance and a deteriorating stadium. “Our shared ambition is clear: we all want to see Manchester United back where we belong,” said Ratcliffe in a statement, “at the very top of English, European and world football.”

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