Nov.22 – Manchester United has said it was beginning a process to explore strategic alternatives, including new investment or a potential sale, 17 years after the English Premier League soccer club was bought by the American Glazer family.
The Glazer family is working with financial advisers on the process, which could lead to a partial sale of the Old Trafford club or investments including redevelopment of the stadium and infrastructure, the club said in a statement.
Manchester United fans have been clamoring for a change of ownership and the Glazers have come under intense criticism as the team has gone five years without winning a trophy. The last trophy he won was the Europa League and the League Cup in 2017.
“As we look to continue to build on the club’s success story, the board authorized a comprehensive evaluation of strategic alternatives,” Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, United co-chief executives and directors, said in the statement.
“We will evaluate all options to ensure we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future,” the statement said.
In August, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe had expressed interest in buying United, Reuters reported. At the time, Elon Musk had also joked about intending to buy the club.
Wealthy Asian tycoons, especially those from China, have been buying up European teams in recent years, including Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers and Italy’s Inter Milan.
Since then, however, soccer clubs have been viewed as unfavorable assets by China and any major overseas purchases seem unlikely at this point, said Mark Dreyer, author of “Sporting Superpower,” a Beijing-based book. about China’s sporting ambitions.
“It is almost impossible to see how a China-related entity could justify a purchase of this magnitude in the current climate,” he said. “…with China only now facing the realities of COVID-19, making the entire economic environment much more uncertain, no state body would approve this type of deal.”
The owners are under pressure with United sitting fifth in the Premier League at mid-season, which has been suspended due to the current World Cup in Qatar.
Manchester United shares rose as much as 20% after Sky News first reported the sale process, giving the club a market capitalization of $2.6bn.
The company was valued at $2.5 billion at the close of US trading on Tuesday. At its peak as a public company, it had a market capitalization of $4.3 billion in 2018.
Also on Tuesday, the club said star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will leave with immediate effect, marking a bitter end to the Portugal captain’s second stint at Old Trafford after he said he felt betrayed by the club.
The Glazers bought the club for 790 million pounds ($939.07 million) in 2005 in a highly leveraged deal that has been criticized for burdening the club with debt.
United has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2012, when the Glazers sold 10% of their stake through the listing, and have sold more shares since then.