The third and final offers to purchase Manchester United were submitted on Friday by British businessman Jim Ratcliffe and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim are engaged in a bidding war for the right to purchase the Premier League team from the Glazer family.
Although Sheikh Jassim’s most recent offer is reportedly worth over £5 billion ($6.2 billion), Ratcliffe’s improved offer’s size had not yet been disclosed as of Friday at 2100 GMT, when the deadline for the third round of bidding had passed.
According to sources, Sheikh Jassim’s proposal for complete ownership of the team includes the assurance of sizable additional funds for signings and infrastructure.
The money would be used on updating United’s outdated Old Trafford stadium or building a brand-new one, as well as upgrading the team’s practice facilities.
Additionally, Sheikh Jassim’s proposal calls for wiping out United’s $620 million debt.
Former Chelsea owner Ratcliffe, the founder of INEOS Chemical Company and a lifelong United supporter, is rumored to desire to acquire a controlling stake in United worth more than 50%.
That would enable United’s executive co-chairmen Joel and Avram Glazer to maintain their 20 percent ownership stake in the company, which has alarmed a fanbase weary of the Americans’ contentious rule.
It’s possible that the Glazers won’t accept Sheikh Jassim’s or Ratcliffe’s proposal because they reportedly demand a record-breaking £6 billion fee for a sports club before agreeing to sell the Old Trafford team.
The Glazers, who have been incredibly unpopular with fans since they burdened the club with debt in a £790 million leveraged buyout in 2005, were poised to exit at a huge profit when they first opened the door to outside investment in November.
However, private equity firms Elliot Investment Management and The Carlyle Group are among those looking for a minority stake that would permit the Glazers to maintain control and provide the money for infrastructure improvements to the club.
Avram and Joel Glazer are reportedly keen to hold on to their stakes in United, while siblings and fellow directors Kevin, Bryan and Edward Glazer and Darcie Glazer Kassewitz are open to offloading their shares.
Offers from the last round of bidding, a process run for the Glazers by New York merchant bank the Raine Group, were believed to have been worth a maximum of £5 billion.
That would have smashed the Premier League record of £2.5 billion paid for Chelsea last year by a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital, with a further £1.75 billion promised in investment in infrastructure and players.
The Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) has called for a swift conclusion to the process to allow new owners to be in place for the summer transfer window.
“We are in dire need of new investment, which undoubtedly requires new ownership. MUST, along with United fans all around the world, are calling for this process to be concluded without further delay,” the fans’ group said in a statement.
United fans are believed to be planning a protest against the Glazers ahead of Sunday’s match with Aston Villa at Old Trafford.
Decade of Decline
Under the Glazers’ ownership, United have been in a steady decline on and off the field over the past decade.
The Red Devils have not won the Premier League title since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, while the club’s revenue has fallen behind local rivals Manchester City and Liverpool due to a lack of regular Champions League football and a failure to modernise Old Trafford.
But they are enjoying a renaissance under Erik ten Hag’s management this season, having ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup in February.
They also face Manchester City in the FA Cup final on June 3.
Just months after hosting the 2022 World Cup, a successful Qatari bid would give the Gulf state pride of place in the Premier League — the world’s most-watched domestic competition.
But Sheikh Jassim is the son of former Qatari prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and his close links to the gulf state’s ruling elite would raise questions over another Premier League club becoming a state-backed project.
Finnish tycoon Thomas Zilliacus is the outside contender, having recently said his offer from the second round of bidding still stood despite labelling the prolonged sale process as a “farce”.
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