The Qatari group headed by Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad JJ Al Thani is increasingly certain he has won the bid for Manchester United Plc, after thwarting a rival bid from the British billionaire Jim Ratcliffeas the sale of the football club drags on into the crucial summer months.
The transaction has been beset by delays, with offers that did not meet the expectations of the Glazer family, divisions among the owners over whether or not to sell and fears of litigation by minority shareholders, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The people within the inner circle of the Qatari bid have now begun to communicate their confidence in victory and they believe it’s only a matter of time before an official announcement is made, according to the people.
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But with the official sales process heading into its eighth month, the Glazers could make a last-minute decision to stay with the English Premier League club, accepting funds from an outside investor to renovate the club’s dilapidated stadium and training facilities, said one of the people, who asked not to be named citing confidential information.
Spokesmen for the Qatari group and Manchester United declined to comment. A representative for the Raine Group, the New York-based bank that advises Manchester United owners, did not respond to a request for comment.
The sale of Manchester United has faced big alliances of the rich and Wall Street in a battle to own one of the best-known sports assets in the world. Ratcliffe secured financing from banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., while JPMorgan Chase & Co., Rothschild & Co. and Bank of America Corp are among other banks advising on or offering capital for a deal.
Elliott Management, Billionaire’s Paul Singer, has also proposed helping finance bids for the club, competing with rival investors including Carlyle Group Inc., Sixth Street Partners, and Ares Management Corp.
While almost every bidder has been considered a leader at some point in the race, Ratcliffe has been seen as a favorite for much of the time. His plans include keeping Joel and Avram Glazer as minority shareholders, the people said.
The Glazer family’s relationship with Manchester United
Despite the recurring protests against the Glazer —who rarely visit the club—, Joel and Avram they remain staunch supporters of the team that their father, the late Malcolm Glazer, acquired in a leveraged buyout in 2005 and subsequently saddled himself with huge debts. Joel has been involved in recent ticket price decisions and business matters, raising speculation that the brothers could strike a deal with Ratcliffe or another minority investor.
Such an agreement would allow Joel and Avram remain owners, while his four brothers could sell their shares. The Glazers considered this option nearly 12 months ago, when Bloomberg News reported that the American family could sell a minority stake in the Premier League team.
However, the structure of the Ratcliffe deal has provoked opposition from Manchester United’s current minority shareholders, who would not be bought out, the people said. About 69% of the club is owned by the Glazers, and the remainder is spread across multiple shareholders who own New York-listed shares. These public shares have a fraction of the voting rights of those held by the Glazers.