News, Culture & Society

Manchester United: Glazers could sell minority share but Ratcliffe wants full sale as battle begins

Manchester United’s detested American owners, the Glazer family, are withstanding mounting pressure to sell the club after Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe made clear his intentions to launch a takeover bid.

Ratcliffe, who has an estimated net worth of £12bn, wants to purchase the club outright, having recently failed with a bid to buy Chelsea, while US private equity firm Apollo have entered exclusive talks to acquire a minority share in the club. 

Many associated with United are desperate to see the back of Avram and Joel Glazer, but the siblings do not have any plans to cede full control any time soon and are only prepared to offload a small stake.

The US tycoons, who first purchased United back in 2005, have drawn widespread criticism from fans and ex-players for a number of years, having placed the club under huge debts when they first arrived in Manchester.

Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville has long led the calls for the duo to make way for fresh ownership, taking aim at their tendency to withdraw dividends funds for their own personal profit, while supporters have staged numerous protests over the years.

While they do not plan to walk away entirely, the Glazers are prepared to sell minority shares at Old Trafford and, as revealed by Sportsmail, have entered exclusive talks with US private equity firm Apollo.   

It is understood Apollo may bring in other investors as part of any deal, however the consortium is not likely to include bidders who missed out on the recent sale of Chelsea, such as Ratcliffe.

The Glazers are coming under increasing pressure to finally sell up at Manchester United

United fans have been protesting against the American duo's ownership for a number of years

United fans have been protesting against the American duo’s ownership for a number of years

A spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the billionaire Ineos owner, outlined that the English businessman views himself as a ‘potential buyer’ of the Red Devils. 

Ratcliffe, a self-confessed Manchester United fan, has the aim of taking full control of the club in the future. 

Earlier this year the 69-year-old tried to purchase Chelsea but saw his late bid turned down as current owner Todd Boehly and his consortium took ownership of the London club.   

Ratcliffe tabled a last-minute £4.25billion offer to purchase the Stamford Bridge side in May but now aims to become Manchester United owner after registering his interest.

Ineos revealed that company founder and Britain’s richest man has plans to buy the record Premier League holders after reacting to previous news regarding potential investment in the club.

‘If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer,’ the spokesman told The Times.

Britain's richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe is interested in buying the Glazers out at United entirely

Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe is interested in buying the Glazers out at United entirely

Ratcliffe, 69, is Britain's richest man with a staggering reported net worth of £12billion

Ratcliffe, 69, is Britain’s richest man with a staggering reported net worth of £12billion

A self-confessed Manchester United fan, Ratcliffe wants to purchase the struggling club

A self-confessed Manchester United fan, Ratcliffe wants to purchase the struggling club

Who is Sir Jim Ratcliffe?

Sir Jim, founder and boss of chemical giant Ineos, is a football obsessive who recently attracted controversy by his decision to abandon Britain for the tax haven of Monaco.  

Newspaper articles suggested the billionaire was considering putting in an offer for the club, although his spokesman later said there was ‘no substance’ to the reports. 

Sir Jim, who bought French club Nice for £91m in 2019, has previously been linked to both Chelsea and Manchester United, but has never gone ahead with buying a Premier League club because he considers them too expensive. 

In 2019, the 69-year-old identified Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium as a major issue for any potential owner. 

‘There was some early exchange but we were a significant way apart on valuations,’ Ratcliffe told BBC Five Live. ‘The issue with Chelsea is its stadium. We are all getting older and it is a decade of your life to resolve that.’

And he explained to The Times in 2019: ‘Even though clubs have those valuations today, nobody has ever paid those amounts of money.

‘How much did Abramovich pay for Chelsea, £100 million? The Glazers, what £500 million? You can say it’s worth three, four billion but no one has ever paid those sums.

‘Ineos has always tried to take a sensible approach. We don’t like squandering money or we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s part of our DNA, trying to spend sensibly.’

Born in 1952, Sir Jim grew up in a council house on Dunkerley Avenue in Failsworth, a small town between Manchester and Oldham, before attending Beverley Grammar School when his family moved to Yorkshire.

On his first day at the University of Birmingham, he was embarrassed to see he was nearly at the bottom of a list of 99 undergraduates ranked by their A-level results, but went on to achieve a 2:1 in chemical engineering. 

He worked for BP during a summer holiday after graduating and was offered a job. But he was fired after just three days because his boss had seen his medical report and wasn’t keen on him working there with mild eczema.

Sir Jim went on to work as a trainee accountant at a pharmaceuticals company before moving to Esso then Courtaulds. In 1992 he mortgaged his house to buy BP’s chemicals division for about £40 million.

He only started his first business weeks before his 40th birthday and founded Ineos aged 45 in 1998. During the next 20 years he transformed it into the world’s fourth largest chemicals company, with annual revenues of £45bn. 

Sir Jim is a lifelong Manchester United fan, although he also has a season ticket at Chelsea. He sponsors professional cycling team the Ineos Grenadiers, who under their previous name, Team Sky, won the Tour de France seven times. 

In 2020, he was slammed for following a raft of rich Britons including Topshop boss Phillip Green and his wife Tina in relocating from the UK to Monaco where he is expected to save an estimated £4billion in tax.

People who live in Monaco for at least 183 days a year do not pay any income or property taxes. In the UK, meanwhile, the highest tax rate is 45% on income above £150,000-a-year.

Sir Jim was the UK’s third highest individual taxpayer and forked out £110million in 2017-18, according to the Sunday Times tax list. 

The move came soon after he was knighted by the Queen for ‘services to business and investment’.

The businessman also came under fire when it emerged he had furloughed almost 800 members of staff from his luxury hotel groups. His net worth has been reported as between £12 and £14bn. 

Sir Jim married his first wife Amanda Townson in 1985. The pair, who have two sons, divorced in 1995. He has a daughter with his second wife Alicia. Cutting a svelte figure, he does distance running and triathlons to keep himself in shape.

‘If something like this was possible, we would be interested in talking with a view to long-term ownership,’ the spokesman added. 

Ineos then added that Ratcliffe would use investment to upgrade current infrastructure such as the deteriorating Old Trafford, stating there is a need to press the ‘reset’ button.

‘This is not about the money that has been spent or not spent.

‘Jim is looking at what can be done now and, knowing how important the club is to the city, it feels like the time is right for a reset.’ 

Speaking about the news of a potential takeover led by Ratcliffe to Sky Sports News, The Sunday Times’ Football Correspondent Jonathan Northcroft described the Ineos owner’s interest as ‘serious’. 

‘Old Trafford is in a critical state compared to the other major football clubs in Europe,’ he said during the channel’s Paper Talk show.  We spoke to a spokesperson for Ineos, they didn’t mention transfers but they did mention an upgrade for the stadium.

‘It’s not just about transfers, it’s about overhauling the club. Ratcliffe’s interest is serious’

‘It’s a huge story, it’s the best bit of news Manchester United fans have had for some time. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster for them this summer.

‘Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the news that Manchester United have been waiting for, he’s really into football and sport. He’s very rich and from Manchester so he has a feel for the club.

While they have entered talks with US private equity firm to sell minority shares in the club, brothers Avram (right) and Joel Glazer (left) are not prepared to cede full control.

While they have entered talks with US private equity firm to sell minority shares in the club, brothers Avram (right) and Joel Glazer (left) are not prepared to cede full control. 

‘It’s a long way to go, because getting the Glazers sell will not be straight forward and they may not want to sell. But the interest is serious, it won’t just be a change of transfers, it will be a change of how people run things.

‘The Glazers have always been open to selling but at the highest price imaginable. Man United are valued at £2bn on the stock exchange, but it is said they want £6bn. If they don’t get the price they want, they may just sit and wait.’

The current ownership model at the club sees the majority of control lie with the Glazer family, with Avram and Joel Glazer the main representatives.

Other holdings in United are largely owned by investors on the New York Stock Exchange. 

They purchased in the club in 2005, and despite coming in for swathes of criticism since their takeover, have recently felt the growing discontent increase after being publicly slammed by supporters, pundits, and former players with the club in disarray after years of poor management and recruitment.

Ratcliffe’s desire to purchase the club will undoubtedly come as music to the ears of United fans, who have been left exasperated by the club’s form on the pitch. Under new boss Erik ten Hag, United have lost both of their opening fixtures in the Premier League this season.

United’s share price rose sharply on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday as speculation mounted that the Glazers might bring in new investors or sell out completely. The shares closed at $13.69 (£11.36), up 7.1 per cent. 

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