The prospective acquisition of Manchester United PLC by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family, is being delayed by disagreements within the Glazer family, the current owners of the iconic football club. An insider, deeply associated with the deal negotiations, revealed to Worldwide Finance that the Glazer siblings – Avram, Kevin, Bryan, Joel, and Edward – are not unanimously on board with the deal.
Since 2005, the Glazer family has been at the helm of the celebrated team and has been exploring potential buyers since November 2022 under the advisement of Raine Group. Interestingly, this merchant bank was also the advising entity in the massive $21-billion deal between Endeavor, UFC, and World Wrestling Entertainment in April. However, the source characterised the current Manchester United sale proceedings as “a complete mess”, with issues over the valuation and the propriety of selling to a Qatari buyer.
Although Raine Group didn’t respond to requests for comments to Global Finance, experts believe that Manchester United’s sale price could be approximately £6 billion or more, indicating a 7x-8x sales valuation. This speculation from analysts at BlackBull Research came after comparisons to Formula One’s sale to Liberty Media for $4.4 billion in 2017.
Meanwhile, the wealth fund of Qatar isn’t sitting idle. It recently purchased a 5% share in the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and WNBA’s Washington Mystics’ parent company as part of a transaction worth $4.05 billion.
Evidently, Qatar is looking to emulate the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF). With vast oil-funded financial reserves, Saudi Arabia’s PIF has already invested in sports including Formula 1, Aston Martin, football (with the acquisition of Newcastle United in 2021), golf and tennis, with the ATP Tour rumoured to be their next target.
Middle East specialist at the Baker Institute, Kristian Ulrichsen, suggested that the level of sovereign wealth investments in sports has escalated so much that similar deals could become increasingly common for teams aiming to stay competitive.
The final decision for Manchester United hinges on whether Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two UK Holdings Ltd will offer enough to bring the Glazers into agreement.
Regardless of the potential financial boon, winning over Manchester United’s fanbase is another obstacle. Fans have voiced their opposition to both the current ownership and the prospective Qatari buyer, referencing concerns over Qatar’s record on human rights and the treatment of migrant workers, particularly in relation to the recent World Cup.
Finally, it seems Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of Ineos Group and one of UK’s wealthiest individuals, could face another disappointment if the deal goes through. Ratcliffe has previously failed in his bids for Chelsea F.C. and is believed to have been in the race for Manchester United as well.