Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani has informed the Glazer family that controls Manchester United Plc that he would not improve on his bid to acquire the soccer club.
Manchester United had announced nearly a year ago that the board was exploring “strategic alternatives to enhance the club’s growth”.
A full sale was one of the options announced then.
Sheikh Jassim and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe were the front runners after several rounds of bidding earlier this year.
But the process had stalled in recent months despite the anger of supporters towards current owners, the Glazer family.
The Americans have owned the English giants since a leveraged takeover in 2005 for £790 million ($961 million) saddled the club with huge debts.
Figures in March showed United’s debts have grown to £970 million.
However, the Glazers are believed to be holding out for a world record fee for a football club in excess of £6 billion.
Sheikh Jassim’s bid was for full control of United and promised to clear the club’s debt.
By contrast, Ratcliffe is reportedly willing to buy a smaller stake to break the deadlock of ownership of the 20-time English champions.
The Red Devils fortunes on the field have also faded under Glazer’s tenure.
United have not won the English Premier League since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and last won the Champions League in 2008.
They currently sit 10th in the Premier League and have lost their first two Champions League group stage matches for the first time in the club’s history.
Sources familiar with the matter told reporters on Saturday that Sheikh Jassim would not improve on his bid for more than $6 billion.
The move leaves the remaining bidder for Manchester United, Ineos chairman Ratcliffe, in a stronger position.
He has offered to buy only a 25 percent stake in the club, allowing some of the Glazers to cash out, and it remains unclear whether he will clinch an agreement.
The exact value that Ratcliffe’s bid infers on Manchester United could not be learned, but the sources said it was higher than Jassim’s offer of more than $6 billion.
Manchester United is currently valued by the stock market at $3.3 billion.
Jassim, who had also promised to invest more than $1.7 billion in Manchester United after he acquired it, still wants a deal.
But he has informed the Glazer family that there is no point in remaining in the bidding process following nine months of unsuccessful negotiations, the sources said.
Jassim would not have used any debt to acquire Manchester United and his bid would have paid down the club’s existing debt pile, which net of cash totals more than $600 million, the sources added.
The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential.
Representatives for Jassim declined to comment while Manchester United and Ratcliffe representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sky News reported earlier on Saturday that Jassim was withdrawing from the bidding process.
The Glazers’ valuation expectations have been aggressive based on other soccer deals.
Last year, the $3.1 billion acquisition of Chelsea Football Club by an investment group led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital valued it at 5.7 times revenue for its last financial year.
Valuing Manchester United more than Jassim’s bid, at $7 billion for example, would be equivalent to 11 times the club’s revenue over the last 12 months, according to LSEG data.
The Glazer family, which made its fortune in real estate, retail and healthcare and also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought the team for 790 million pounds ($960 million) in 2005.
The six descendants of Malcolm Glazer, who died in 2014, together control 96 percent of Manchester United’s voting stock.
The club announced in November 2022 that the Glazers were exploring cashing out on their ownership.
Record 20-time English champions, Manchester United have over 650 million fans worldwide, according to market research firm Kantar.
A large number of them have been clamouring for a change of ownership.
That is because the Glazers have overseen a significant downturn in the club’s fortunes.
Manchester United won the League Cup under Erik ten Hag last season.
But their third-place finish in the league, 14 points behind local rivals and treble winners Manchester City, underscores the scale of the turnaround required.
The Eagle Online/Reuters/NAN.