Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has declared his interest in buying English football club Manchester United if its controlling owners, the Glazers, are open to a sale.
Ratcliffe, founder of the Ineos petrochemicals group and one of the UK’s richest people, is a life-long supporter of the club and has often been tipped as a possible bidder if the US family chose to sell.
When asked on Wednesday about the prospect of acquiring or investing in United, an Ineos spokesperson said: “Yes, we are interested if the club is for sale.” Manchester United declined to comment.
Earlier on Wednesday Bloomberg reported that the US-based Glazer family were considering a sale of a minority stake in the club.
Public shares in United, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange 10 years ago this month, rose more than 6 per cent on Wednesday to $13.60. However, the stock has fallen 20 per cent in the past 12 months and is still below its initial public offering price of $14.
News of Ratcliffe’s interest came hours after Tesla billionaire Elon Musk tweeted that he was “buying” Manchester United. He soon clarified that it was a joke.
Ratcliffe’s business empire includes stakes in the Mercedes Formula One racing team, the Ineos Grenadiers cycling outfit and French football club OGC Nice. He also led an unsuccessful bid to buy Chelsea FC earlier this year.
United dominated English football in the 1990s and much of the 2000s, winning the title 13 times under legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson. However, the team has failed to add to that tally since his retirement in 2013.
Not even the return of Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo last season restored the club’s fortunes; United failed to qualify for the lucrative European Champions League and finished sixth in the English top flight.
Manchester United currently sit bottom of the English Premier League with zero points after losing their first two games of the new season. The team lost 4-0 to Brentford on Saturday, in what the Manchester United Supporters Trust described as a “new low in our decade of decline”. “We demand urgent and radical change,” the group said.
Despite its recent on-pitch struggles, the club remains one of the biggest brands in sport. Analysts and bankers say the Glazers would have no trouble attracting interest from investors.
The Glazers bought United in a £790mn leveraged buyout in 2005 that made them instantly unpopular with fans for saddling the club with debt. The family controls the club’s voting rights.
According to football finance analyst Swiss Ramble, the club has spent over £1bn on interest, debt repayments and dividends, and management fees associated with the Glazer buyout.
Ratcliffe’s interest in United comes after the failed attempt to gatecrash the auction for Chelsea.
The boyhood United fan lined up £4.25bn to bid for its London rival but his last-ditch effort was rejected by merchant bank Raine Group, which handled the auction on behalf of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
US financier Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital acquired Chelsea for £2.5bn and committed a further £1.75bn to invest in players and infrastructure.
Ratcliffe had fashioned his bid for the west London club as a “British bid, for a British club”.
Image and article originally from www.ft.com. Read the original article here.