Sir Jim Ratcliffe will pay £1.3 billion for 25 per cent of Manchester United after Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani withdrew from the bidding process.
Sheikh Jassim’s offer, which valued United at more than £5bn, was believed to be the only bid for 100 per cent of the club.
But it is understood that the Qatari’s valuation was not sufficient for the Glazers, who have owned United since 2005 – so Shiekh Jassim has withdrawn from the process.
The other proposal is to buy around 25 per cent of the club by petrochemicals billionaire Sir Jim, who has said he has been a fan of the club since childhood, with the deal needing to be agreed at a United board meeting this week.
Ratcliffe initially wanted to buy all of the Glazers’ 67 per cent shareholding.
‘Ratcliffe is overpaying – Sheikh Jassim did his best’
One source who has followed the process closely told Sky Sports News:
“What is happening is totally unreal. The Glazers’ valuation is insanely fanciful. Sheikh Jassim offered them almost double the market capitalisation. He was a cash buyer, he was going to clear all their debts, there would have been no new debt and he was going to put in another £1.4bn for the stadium and the team.
“All that still wasn’t enough for the Glazers. What we’re left with now, after almost a year, is someone who is going to overpay for 25 per cent of the club. They are arguably the greatest and most historic football club on the planet and after a year there’s just one bidder and he can only stump up enough for 25 per cent.
“It’s a joke. If they just wanted to sell a minority stake, they could have done it privately last November. The market dictates what United are worth, not the Glazers or Raine. Remember when there were apparently eight serious bidders? All along there has only been one bidder for 100 per cent of the club so why should he bid against himself?
“Ratcliffe is overpaying and any valuation higher than Sheikh Jassim is sheer lunacy.
“If he can only afford to buy 25 per cent to start with, who is going to pay for the new stadium? Who is going to fix the leaking roof? Who is going to pay for the new training centre and new players and community projects?
“United can’t keep up with Brighton these days, never mind Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. And don’t even think about the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
“And if they go with Ratcliffe, they get another shareholder. How does that help decision-making? Where is the new vision and the new ambition? Where is the new engagement with the fans? The same owners will be in place and what guarantee is there that the Glazers will sell more of their shares in the future? What guarantee is there that Ratcliffe will have the money to buy them out? Where is the money that is needed to take them up to Brighton’s level going to come from?
“Sheikh Jassim tried to bridge the gap between reality and lunacy on valuation. He did his best.”
How did we get here?
Sky News learned last month that Sir Jim’s Ineos Sports vehicle proposed to the controlling Glazer family a deal that would see it acquiring chunks of both their shares and the stock publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in equal proportion.
That offer would entail making an offer at the same price for both sets of shares.
Sheikh Jassim wanted to buy the club outright and launched what his party described as a fifth and final bid in June in an effort to get the deal over the line.
The Qatari’s first bid for the club was made in February.
Sheikh Jassim’s bid team had floated the possibility of withdrawing in May after a lack of progress since making an apparent final offer requested by the Glazers in April.
Timeline of Man Utd takeover process
- November 22, 2022: The Glazers confirm they are open to a sale but say other options “including new investment” will be considered.
- February 17, 2023: Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani make rival bids for Man Utd takeover. Qatari wants to buy 100 per cent of the club.
- February 18, 2023: US hedge fund Elliott Management lodge proposal for investment in Man Utd.
- February 28, 2023: Glazers split on sale after bids fail to meet £6bn valuation.
- March 5, 2023: Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe make it through to next stage of the process along with unnamed bidder.
- March 10, 2023: Elliott Management make it through to the second stage of the Man Utd sale process.
- March 16 & 17, 2023: Qatari group and Sir Jim Ratcliffe meet Raine Group at Old Trafford before being given access to detailed financial information. Sheikh Jassim stays away.
- March 22, 2023: Raine extend deadline for second bids after requests from Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe. Elliott Management did make minority stake offer before the soft deadline.
- March 23, 2023: Ratcliffe makes his second bid.
- March 24, 2023: Sheikh Jassim makes his second bid.
- April 11, 2023: The Glazers take the sale process to a third round with interested parties asked to submit final offers by end of April.
- April 28, 2023: Sheikh Jassim makes world-record bid. Ratcliffe also makes his offer before the deadline.
- May 16, 2023: Sheikh Jassim goes in with fourth bid close to £5bn. INEOS proposal values Man Utd at a higher price but is not for the whole club and would give Glazers chance to keep 20 per cent stake.
- June 7, 2023: Sheikh Jassim submits a fifth improved bid.
- October 14, 2023: Sheikh Jassim withdraws from process.
Sheikh Jassim is understood to have raised his offer in June but it was not satisfactory for the Glazers despite being far more than the club’s $3.3bn valuation on the New York Stock Exchange.
The difference between the parties is over the valuation – which still leaves open the possibility of Sheikh Jassim being enticed back into the protracted process – as protests against the Glazers continue.
Anger against the ownership has simmered and grown as United have started the season by losing four of their opening eight Premier League games to sit 10th in the table.
Erik ten Hag’s side have also lost both Champions League group games so far in the 2023-24 campaign.
Sheikh Jassim’s offer would have made United the most expensive sports team in history by at least £200m, eclipsing the deal to buy NFL side Washington Commanders, but still fell short of the Glazers’ own valuation of the club at around £6bn, it was reported earlier this year.
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) has urged the Glazer family to “make their position clear”.
“We hope this news accelerates that process rather than delays it,” a statement said following Sheikh Jassim’s withdrawal. “Based on the last 11 months, no-one can be quite sure.”
United are in need of investment to upgrade Old Trafford and win the Premier League for the first time since a record 20th league title in 2013.
The Glazers have owned Manchester United since buying it for just under £800m in 2005 – an 18-year tenure marked by protests and a conspicuous dearth of trophies since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s former manager, also in 2013.
The Red Devils did win their first trophy in six years by beating Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final back in February.
Glazers ‘would rather do a deal with Ratcliffe’
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“I can confirm that Sheikh Jassim of Qatar has withdrawn from the process.
“The Glazers have indicated that they would rather do a deal with Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who is offering to buy an initial 25 per cent stake in Manchester United, so Sheikh Jassim has withdrawn from the sale process for Manchester United.
“Now, reading between the lines, my information is, as far as the football side of Manchester United is concerned, they will be disappointed.
“I know that people close to Erik ten Hag for instance were looking forward to Sheikh Jassim buying Manchester United, they were looking forward to the fact that he was willing to clear the club’s debts, the debts that had been loaded onto the club by the Glazer family from when they bought Manchester United 18 years ago.
“He was looking forward to the fact that he would have more money to spend in the transfer market, he was looking forward to the fact that Old Trafford would be redeveloped, there would be more money made available for the training ground Carrington to be redeveloped as well.
“But the owners, the Glazer family, have decided that they would rather do a deal with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos group who are proposing to buy a 25 per cent stake in Manchester United and looking ahead to buy all of the Glazer’s shareholding in the club.
“But this is just more uncertainty – more Manchester United in limbo.
“I think it is good news if you are a Liverpool fan or a Manchester City supporter, or an Arsenal supporter, or a Chelsea supporter. It just means more uncertainty for Manchester United. The Glazers are not leaving.”
Ratcliffe deal ‘would still leave Glazers in overall control’
Sky News sports correspondent Rob Harris:
“Sir Jim is well-versed in the world of sport, with owning Nice in France, as well as investing in cycling too.
“It would lead to fresh investment in the club, but that would not deliver what so many fans are calling for [in terms of] a change of ownership after so long. The anger has only grown throughout the Glazers’ reign.
“We’ve heard from the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust who have said the club are in desperate need of new ownership and they hope that this news accelerates the process rather than delays it.
“But for many fans they were hoping Sheikh Jassim would offer a fresh era with 100 per cent control of the club. If it was to be Sir Jim Ratcliffe investing in the club it would still leave the Glazers in overall control.”
‘There will be confusion as to what happens next’
United We Stand editor Andy Mitten:
“It’s some news because it’s been 11 months now since a strategic review was announced and Manchester United fans have grown extremely frustrated at the lack of news, the lack of communication from the Glazer family.
“I think they have exhausted any goodwill from Manchester United fans. You have seen persistent protests against the Glazer family at almost every Manchester United match.
“I think there will be mixed feelings for Manchester United fans. Some will be disappointed that the Qatari bid does not look like being successful, others will be happy.
“I think there will be confusion as to what happens next. Does this mean the end of the Glazers? In the short term, it looks not.
“Does it mean Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos bid will push towards getting control over Man Utd? I think a lot of fans would think that is better than having the Glazers in charge.
“Manchester United need capital to redevelop Old Trafford. The club needs a new direction, and the fans are unanimous about that.
“The fans are frustrated. People within the club are frustrated, a thousand people work for Manchester United, they want clarity over their future as well.”