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Manchester United Selling Up to 25 Percent to UK Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe

Sunday, 24 December 2023 07:12 PM EST

After failing to win the Premier League in the past 10 years, Manchester United announced Sunday it had agreed to sell a minority stake in the storied club to Jim Ratcliffe in a deal that would also see the British billionaire and boyhood fan take control of its soccer operations.

"We all want to see Manchester United back where we belong, at the very top of English, European and world football," Ratcliffe said Sunday.

The record 20-time league champions have not won the title since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, prompting increased anger toward the Glazer family, United's American owners.

The announcement of a deal came more than a year after the club was put up for sale.

Ratcliffe, who owns petrochemicals giant INEOS and is one of Britain's richest people, has secured a stake of "up to 25%" in United and will invest $300 million in its Old Trafford stadium.

Ratcliffe will provide $200 million upon completion of the deal and a further $100 million by the end of 2024, United said. In total the deal will be worth around $1.6 billion, including the $300 million of funding.

The deal is subject to approval by the Premier League.

United is currently eighth in the league and has already been eliminated from European competition. Under-fire manager Eric ten Hag watched his team lose 2-0 at West Ham on Saturday, United's 13th defeat in 26 games in all competitions this season.

Ratcliffe, who was born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, had originally bid to buy the entire majority share of around 69% held by the Glazers.

"As a local boy and a lifelong supporter of the club, I am very pleased that we have been able to agree a deal with the Manchester United Board that delegates us management responsibility of the football operations of the club," Ratcliffe said.

"Whilst the commercial success of the club has ensured there have always been available funds to win trophies at the highest level, this potential has not been fully unlocked in recent times. We will bring the global knowledge, expertise and talent from the wider INEOS Sport group to help drive further improvement at the club, while also providing funds intended to enable future investment into Old Trafford."

The transaction will be funded by Trawlers Limited — a company wholly owned by Ratcliffe — without any debt, United said. United fans have been critical of the leveraged nature of the Glazers' buyout that loaded debt onto the club, as well as a perceived lack of investment and the dividends taken out by the owners.

Trawlers was named after a famous quote by former United great Eric Cantona. The Frenchman said at a news conference in 1995: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, United executive co-chairmen and directors, said in the statement: "Sir Jim and INEOS bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the club. ... Manchester United has talented people right across the club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help bring our great fans more success in the future."

In November last year, the Glazers announced plans to seek new investment and instructed US merchant bank Raine to oversee the process, which included the potential of a full sale.

Ratcliffe had been in competition with Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani to buy out the Glazers, who also own the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But after months of protracted negotiations Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid in October to leave Ratcliffe in position to take a minority share in the club.

Sheikh Jassim always maintained he was interested in a complete takeover.

United said Ratcliffe had paid $33 per share.

'Mixed Feelings'

Uncertainty over the ownership had led to fan protests outside the club's Old Trafford stadium, while chants of "Glazers out" have been regularly heard during games.

While Ratcliffe was long seen by fans as a popular potential owner, his minority investment means the Glazers remain in place, despite years of fan campaigns to drive them out.

Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) felt fans would be left with "mixed feelings" after Ratcliffe's investment left the Glazers still in overall charge.

"We welcome the investment from a boyhood red, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS company, but many will wish his ownership stake was greater than the initially rumored 25%," MUST said. "We note the statements that he and his team will control sporting activities, yet puzzle how any organization can put its very core business in the hands of a minority shareholder, and how that meaningfully works in practice."

MUST added: "Today might — just might — be a step forward for Manchester United after some very difficult years."

The late tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for 790 million pounds (then about $1.4 billion) amid a backlash from supporters.

Ratcliffe is said to be worth around $15 billion and tried to buy Premier League club Chelsea last year.

He already owns French soccer club Nice, cycling team INEOS Grenadiers, and is a one-third shareholder of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team. INEOS Britannia competes in the America's Cup.

What's Next?

INEOS' responsibility for the management of United's soccer operations is set to include "all aspects" of both the men's and women's teams as well as the academies.

Just how Ratcliffe and INEOS will implement those on a day-to-day basis remains to be seen.

United's statement noted the deal was still "subject to customary regulatory approvals" which is expected to take some time. The process must be ratified by the Premier League and also an official announcement made via the New York Stock Exchange.

There have been suggestions it could take up to six weeks for changes to the club's ownership to be established with all the relevant parties.

Bad Timing?

Former United captain Gary Neville attacked the timing of the announcement, which came at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

"Manchester United 2023 has been a disgrace to the end," the soccer pundit wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "The timing of this is truly awful and no functioning organization would even think about it."

Neville added: "Anyway all the very best to Jim Ratcliffe and I hope he can somehow work out a way to get the club right again and back to being something respectable on and off the pitch."

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Newsfront
After failing to win the Premier League in the past 10 years, Manchester United announced Sunday it had agreed to sell a minority stake in the storied club to Jim Ratcliffe in a deal that would also see the British billionaire and boyhood fan take control of its soccer management.
manchester united, jim ratcliffe, stake, football club, soccer, uk, billionaire
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2023-12-24
Sunday, 24 December 2023 07:12 PM
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