The Manchester United plot thickens: A Qatari royal, Britain’s richest man—and the activist hedge fund Elliott Management

Must read

A member of the Qatari royal family and Britain’s richest man submitted offers to acquire Manchester United Plc, while Elliott Investment Management LP is prepared to provide financing, as the bidding process for the English football giant heats up. 

Billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management offered a proposal to help finance offers for the club, according to a person familiar with the matter. Elliott is not bidding for the club itself, the person said.

Elliott’s interest was confirmed after Jassim bin Hamad bin Jaber Al Thani, the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank and son of the country’s former prime minister, declared his bid to acquire the English Premier League club in an emailed statement Friday. The Qataris’ opening offer could value Manchester United, currently owned by the US Glazer family, at about £5 billion ($6 billion), Bloomberg News reported earlier

“The bid plans to return the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch, and — above all — will seek to place the fans at the heart of Manchester United Football Club once more,” Sheikh Jassim wrote in the statement. 

On Saturday, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, a Manchester United fan who’s already lined up financing from banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and his company Ineos Group also said they had submitted a bid for majority ownership of the club. 

“We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community,” according to the statement. Promising to put “the Manchester back into Manchester United,” Ratcliffe and Ineos said they would focus on winning the Champions League.

Rival Bids

Initial bids for the club were due Friday. The debt-free offer from the Qatari group includes investment in the team, training center and stadium, and will be made via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation. The amount of the offer wasn’t disclosed in the statement.

The Qatari group includes Sheikh Jassim’s father, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, who was head of the Qatar Investment Authority as well as prime minister, Bloomberg has reported. Sheikh Jassim, who was previously a Credit Suisse Group AG board member, was educated in the UK at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and is a lifelong Manchester United fan, according to the statement.

A deal for Manchester United could represent the biggest takeover of a professional sports club on record, potentially surpassing the $4.65 billion paid last year by a group led by Walmart Inc. heir Rob Walton for the Denver Broncos NFL team.

New York bank Raine Group is advising the Glazers on the sale of the club, whose New York-listed shares have doubled since November as buyout speculation has grown, giving the company a market value of about $4.3 billion.

Chelsea, PSG

UK and European teams are increasingly attracting interest from investors abroad. That includes the £2.5 billion acquisition of Chelsea Football Club by a US group led by Clearlake Capital and Todd Boehly. AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Crystal Palace and Genoa CFC are all among the clubs with private equity owners, including from the US.

Buoyed by Qatar hosting the World Cup last year, Qatar Sports Investments has considered plays for Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool FC, as well as Manchester United, Bloomberg News has reported. QSI already owns Paris Saint-Germain, the club team for both Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe two of the biggest stars of the Qatar games.

If successful, Sheikh Jassim’s group might have to persuade UEFA that it is sufficiently independent from QSI for PSG and Manchester United to play in the same European competition.

Most of the Premier League’s clubs are now majority owned by foreign investors. That includes Newcastle United FC, which was bought by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund in 2021 after waiting a year and a half for league approval.

Manchester United, which has won a record 13 Premier League titles, has consistently been able to attract the game’s biggest stars, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

While its dominance of English football shifted in recent years to crosstown rivals Manchester City FC, which has won multiple honors since being taken over by Abu Dhabi investors in 2008, Manchester United has been enjoying a revival in playing fortunes of late under new coach Erik ten Hag.

–With assistance from Alex Longley.

Learn how to navigate and strengthen trust in your business with The Trust Factor, a weekly newsletter examining what leaders need to succeed. Sign up here.

More articles

Latest article