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Qatari sheikh files second bid in tussle for Manchester United

Hawa Cissoko of West Ham slides in on Alessia Russo of Manchester United, giving away a penalty during the Womens Super League game at Old Trafford on March 25 Natalie Mincher/SPP/Sipa USA
Hawa Cissoko of West Ham slides in on Alessia Russo of Manchester United, giving away a penalty during the Women's Super League game at Old Trafford on March 25
  • Sheikh Jassim improves offer for Premier League club
  • Second bid thought to be around $6bn
  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Thomas Zilliacus also bidding for United

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani has submitted an improved bid to buy Manchester United FC.

The Qatari businessman made his first offer for the Premier League club in February, when his spokesperson said the bid was completely debt free.

Merchant bank Raine Group, which is handling the sale process, had set a deadline of last Wednesday for a next round of bids, although Sheikh Jassim’s consortium was afforded an extension.

Financial details of the improved offer have not been revealed, but reports suggest it could be in the region of £5 billion ($6.12 billion). 

Sheikh Jassim, the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank and son of a former prime minister of Qatar, has two main rivals for the keys to Old Trafford: Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the Greater Manchester-born billionaire and founder of Ineos, and Thomas Zilliacus, a Finnish mobile and social media entrepreneur whose offer was only revealed last week.

Zilliacus said in a statement: “I have appealed to my two main rivals, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim, to join forces with me so that we buy the club together and that way channel more money to the club for everything from player acquisition to stadium upgrades.

“I however have not received any reply, so XXI Century Capital has increased its bid.”

US hedge fund Elliott Management has expressed an interest in buying a minority stake in the football club – and offered to finance other parties keen to invest.

Manchester United has been owned by the American Glazer family since 2005. They revealed in November that they were keen to find new investors or to sell the club. They are reported to be looking for $6 billion for an outright sale.

The Glazers have been heavily criticised for their highly leveraged purchase and track record as owners. The club was debt-free ahead of their £790 million takeover and now has debt of £500 million. It has cost more than £1 billion to service the debt.

Manchester United was listed fourth in the latest edition of the global Deloitte Football Money League, released in January. The club made revenues of $739.45 million in 2022, up 23 percent year-on-year, according to Deloitte.

This included $332 million accumulated through commercial activities, $273 million through the club’s share of broadcasting rights and $135 million from match-day revenues.

Any sale of the Old Trafford club would likely exceed the biggest sports deal so far, the $5.2 billion including debt and investments paid for Chelsea by American Todd Boehly and his consortium, sources have told Reuters.