DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Manchester United’s American owners confirmed Tuesday that they would consider putting the iconic English Premier League club up for sale.
United said the Glazers were exploring outside financing to boost growth – a move that could pave the way for a potential takeover.
“As part of this process, the board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment in the club, sale or other transactions involving the company,” it said in a statement.
US investment bank Raine Group has been enlisted to handle any sale or new investment.
Rennes earlier this year handled the sale of Premier League club Chelsea to Todd Bohle and Clearlake Capital, successfully securing £2.5 billion ($3 billion) plus a commitment of £1.75 billion ($2 billion) of additional investment.
While there is no guarantee the Glazers will relinquish full control of United, the news will provide hope to the team’s supporters who have long campaigned to oust the American family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Late businessman Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for £790 million (about $1.4 billion) amid backlash from fans.
The unrest continued in the following years and has recently seen increasingly angry protests. A match against Liverpool last year had to be postponed after demonstrations at Old Trafford.
“Manchester United’s strength rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” co-chairmen Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer said in the statement. “As we seek to continue to build on the club’s history of success, the Board has authorized a comprehensive assessment of strategic alternatives. We will evaluate all options to ensure we are providing the best service to our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future.”
They added that throughout the process, “we will remain fully focused on serving the interests of our fans, shareholders and various stakeholders.”
United fans criticized the leveraged nature of the Glazers purchase, which left the club in debt, as well as the perceived lack of investment and profits received by the owners.
The club have endured a period of steady decline since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 – failing to win a league title since – and have had to keep an eye on fierce rivals Manchester City and Liverpool for English football.
United said that among its growth plans was a potential redevelopment of Old Trafford – something fans have long called for.
Raine will likely use Chelsea’s sale as a yardstick for any valuation – and hopes to surpass that figure for one of the most popular sports teams in the world.
Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of petrochemicals company Ineos, this month abandoned his previous interest in buying United, despite being a longtime fan.
Ineos already owns French club Nice.
“Our position has evolved since the summer and we are now concentrating our efforts in Nice and raising our ambitions for the club to make it a first-class club in France to compete with Paris Saint-Germain,” Ineos said in a statement. “It would be a much better value for our investment than buying one of the best clubs in the Premier League.”
Liverpool – another English Premier League club with American ownership – is exploring similar options. Fenway Sports Group said earlier this month that it was open to selling shares in the club it bought in 2010.
AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup And the https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
James Robson is in https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson