Takeover bids for Manchester United by Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani and British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe are not high enough for the billionaire Glazer family to sell the club, according to a person close to the situation.
The two bidders who have gone public with their indicative offers would have to increase their bids if they are to convince its owners the Glazers to sell, the person said.
The Glazers have received a variety of proposals from other potential suitors, including several minority investment proposals that would allow them to raise capital at a more attractive price and retain control of the English Premier League club, the person said. However none have come forward publicly.
Three people with knowledge of the situation said bidders had agreed to non-disclosure agreements.
Bidders were asked to meet an informal deadline for proposals last week. They could be granted access to further financial information as soon as next week.
US bank Raine Group, the club’s advisers, are sifting through the offers and are preparing to take both types to the next stage of the process.
The debt-free bid by Sheikh Jassim, second son of former Qatar prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, is expected to value the club at roughly $4.5bn, according to people familiar with the matter. The value of Ratcliffe’s bid has not been disclosed.
An increase from Sheikh Jassim’s current offer could set a global record for the price paid for a sports club. The current record was set by billionaire Walmart heir Rob Walton who paid $4.6bn for the Denver Broncos American football franchise last year.
Manchester United is listed on the New York stock exchange. Its value by market capitalisation is roughly $3.8bn, and the club has roughly $700mn of debt. The share price fell by around 13 per cent this week to end trading on Friday at $22.89. It had previously jumped from around $13 late last year to north of $27 earlier this month.
Raising capital from minority investors would allow the Glazers to retain control while shoring up the club’s balance sheet, which was hurt by the coronavirus pandemic when revenues dropped.
The Glazers control the company through shares with extra voting rights and own roughly 70 per cent of the equity.
A change of ownership of United would be a landmark moment for the business of sport, as investors ranging from billionaires to sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms pour money into the sector.
The Glazers are in no rush to reach a decision and are under no pressure to sell, one of the people with knowledge of the situation said; the strategic review of the club which was launched in November is still at an early stage. They are likely to make a decision by the summer, ahead of the transfer window when clubs are allowed to buy and sell players.
However that timetable has been complicated by the variety of proposals received and suitors that have emerged since the soft deadline for bids last week.
United fans have protested against the club’s American owners ever since family patriarch Malcolm Glazer led a £790mn leveraged buyout in 2005.
Earlier this week another wealthy US owner of a Premier League club called off his effort to sell it. Liverpool FC’s John Henry, who also owns baseball’s Boston Red Sox and ice hockey’s Pittsburgh Penguins, said his company, Fenway Sports Group, would retain ownership.
The decisions by Sheikh Jassim and the Ineos founder Ratcliffe to go public on their bids have drawn a rebuke from Raine Group, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
The last major Premier League club to change hands was Chelsea, in a sale process also run by Raine.
Sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich put the London club up for sale last year after Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in an auction that fetched £2.5bn — a football industry record. The sale took place speedily because sanctions affected Chelsea and hit its revenues.
However the Glazers are in a very different position, with no specific need to sell, so they have more time to assess their options.
On Sunday Manchester United will face Newcastle in the League Cup final — a win would bring the team its first silverware since 2017.
All parties declined to comment.