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Qatari royal submits last-ditch $6.2 billion offer for Manchester United

The updated offer, submitted Tuesday, is believed to be close to £5 billion ($6.2 billion) but shy of the current owners’ £6 billion ($7.4 billion) valuation for the soccer club.
Alejandro Garnacho of Manchester United scores the team's second goal whilst under pressure from Nelson Semedo of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford on May 13, 2023 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani has put in an 11th-hour fourth bid to buy Manchester United from the Glazer family after reports suggested that the Qatari royal's rival, Jim Ratcliffe, was in pole position to buy the British soccer club.

The updated offer, believed to be close to £5 billion ($6.2 billion) but shy of the current owners’ £6 billion valuation for the soccer club, was submitted to Raine Group Tuesday morning, the New York-based investment bank managing the sale of the team, Sky Sports, reported Wednesday.

The deadline for a third and final round of bidding for the club passed on April 28, but last week, reports emerged that Ratcliffe, the CEO of UK-based chemicals firm INEOS, had put in a revised offer that made him the favorite of United owners the Glazer family to take over the club.

Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, is understood to be offering to acquire a majority stake in the soccer team, while Thani, a Qatari banker and son of a former emir of Qatar, is planning to fully buy out the club with no debt. Thani believes that the offer is a very competitive one, as it includes nearly £1 billion worth of club debt and a separate fund to redevelop United’s Old Trafford stadium, the surrounding area and the team’s training ground.

Although Ratcliffe’s bid values United at a higher price than Thani’s, it is not for the whole club and it would involve the Glazers keeping a 20% stake.

Shares in Manchester United spiked by nearly 10% on premarketing trading on Wednesday morning following the news that Thani had upped his bid. On the New York Stock Exchange, where the club is listed, United’s stock was up to $20.80, a 9.7% rise from the previous day. When the markets closed Tuesday evening, the sporting franchise had a market capitalization of $3.1 billion.

Back in November, the Glazer family first announced that they were exploring “strategic alternatives” for the club, which could include a takeover.

Many fans of the Red Devils are against the current owners staying in charge for what they see as getting the club into significant debt, not doing enough to maintain Old Trafford and lacking a long-term vision for the club. As a result, many fans may prefer the prospect of a Qatari takeover over Ratcliffe. 

Neil Joyce, co-founder and CEO of The CLV Group, a company that helps sports clubs maximize revenues, said that much focus has been on the format of the bids, such as whether they are financed by debt or not, or offer guarantees to invest in club infrastructure.

"The reality is, it’s about what the Glazers personally can take out of this deal or it will not happen," he told Al-Monitor.

Joyce said the Glazers will be considering whether Thani's new bid works out at a higher rate per share than the INEOS bid. He said the brothers will also be considering whether the latest bid includes any upside in future value by way of any minority shareholder for the Glazers or any new venture that could be created in other sports away from Man Utd for the Glazers and Thani.

"Those critical points are ultimately going to truly surface the level of intent from the Glazers to transact and over what time period," Joyce said. "If the revised bid addresses those points versus INEOS current bid then irrespective of what each bidder is prepared to do with funds and fan strategy therein also the Glazers position will be truly known."

Joyce told Al-Monitor on March 20 that the Glazers may not end up selling the club and instead could be trying to increase its value through a bidding war and further monetize it.

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