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Qatar’s sheikh sweetens final bid for Manchester United

REUTERS/Tony Obrien
Ineos Chair Jim Ratcliffe would pay over $1.5 billion for the stake in Manchester United if his bid is accepted by the Glazer family

Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani has submitted a new bid, estimated close to £5 billion ($6.31 billion), for Manchester United Football Club.

The sweetened offer intends to beat the bid made by British petrochemicals billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, UK-based news outlets reported.

Al Thani is offering to buy 100 percent of the club for a price nearer to $6.31 billion, The Times newspaper said.

Sky Sports News reported that the sheikh believed “his bid was very competitive and will bring huge benefits to Manchester United, including clearing nearly £1 billion debt and a separate fund to redevelop Old Trafford”.

Reports last week claimed that a revised offer from Ratcliffe and Ineos Group has supposedly put them in pole position to acquire the club. However, their bid is not for the whole club and will allow the club owner’s Glazer family to hold a 20 percent stake.

The Glazer family last November set an asking price of $6 billion for an outright sale of the club, owned since 2005.    

They have been heavily criticised for their highly leveraged purchase and track record as owners. The club was debt-free ahead of its £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.

Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in Paris, told AGBI in January Qatar’s reported plan to buy a Premier League football club is the natural next step for the host of the 2022 World Cup.

“Qatar needs to move on to the next stage of its plan for sport, in this case by scaling up investments and making their assets work harder for the country,” he said.

“Bottom-line financial considerations are important, though building interdependencies with external partners is more important.”

Dr Robert Butler, co-director of the Centre for Sports Economics and Law at University College Cork in Ireland, added: “I never thought the 2022 World Cup would be the end of Qatari interest in football.”

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