Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of the Ineos petrochemicals empire, is set to invest $300 million (£245 million) from his vast fortune into Manchester United Football Club’s aging infrastructure. This investment is part of a forthcoming deal where he will acquire a 25% stake in the club, which is expected to be officially announced this month.
This exclusive information was revealed by Sky News earlier today. Sir Jim’s investment is expected to be accompanied by his acquisition of a shareholding estimated to be valued at over £1.25 billion. It’s worth noting that this £245 million investment will be provided in stages, with the majority of the sum being transferred to the club by the end of the year. Importantly, this investment will be personally financed by Sir Jim and will not increase Manchester United’s existing debt.
The purchase of this 25% stake by Sir Jim comes approximately a year after the Glazer family, which has controlled the club since 2005, began formally exploring the possibility of a sale. The total commitment from Sir Jim, including the stock purchase and capital for investment, will amount to around £1.5 billion on the first day of his involvement with Manchester United. However, this figure may vary depending on the final share price.
After extensive negotiations with various potential buyers, Sir Jim’s acquisition of a minority stake has emerged as the preferred option for the Glazers. The official announcement of the deal is anticipated within the next two weeks, although ongoing negotiations between Sir Jim’s team and the Glazers could affect the timing of the announcement.
The additional $300 million investment from Sir Jim is primarily directed at improving Manchester United’s physical infrastructure and not focused on addressing the team’s performance issues. The first team has faced difficulties recently, including consecutive 3-0 home defeats in the Premier League, and the pressure is mounting on manager Erik Ten Hag to turn the season around.
This incremental investment will address concerns about whether Old Trafford, the club’s home stadium, will benefit from much-needed renovations to compete with the facilities of rival clubs like Arsenal, Manchester City, and Tottenham Hotspur. However, the overhaul required for Old Trafford is likely to exceed £245 million to regain its status as one of the world’s premier football grounds.
It is understood that Sir Jim is committed to further investments in the future, but it remains unclear whether these commitments will be publicly disclosed at the time of the stake purchase. Other questions about Manchester United’s future ownership also persist, including whether Sir Jim intends to seek overall control of the club.
Reports in recent weeks have suggested that he will immediately assume control of football matters at the club alongside Ineos Sports colleagues, including Sir Dave Brailsford. The specific method Sir Jim will use to acquire 25% of both publicly traded A-shares and the B-shares held by the Glazer siblings, which carry most of the voting rights, is also uncertain. Analysts have suggested that a tender offer may be the mechanism used.
The price offered by Ineos Sports has not yet been disclosed, but it is expected to be at a substantial premium to the closing price of $17.92 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.
Some Manchester United fans have expressed concerns about Sir Jim buying a minority stake, as it allows the Glazers to retain control. The Glazer family, who acquired the club for just under £800 million in 2005, has remained silent throughout the sale process.
Sir Jim has pitched a restructured deal in an attempt to break the impasse over Manchester United’s future, which includes the purchase of a minority stake.
Besides Sir Jim and Sheikh Jassim, the Glazers have received other credible offers for minority stakes or financing to revamp the club’s aging infrastructure. These offers have come from various entities, including Carlyle, Elliott Management, Ares Management Corporation, and Sixth Street.
Part of the Glazers’ rationale for attaching a high valuation to the club is the potential for greater control over its broadcast rights, as well as the belief that it can more effectively commercialize one of the world’s most famous sports brands.
The Glazers’ ownership of Manchester United has been marked by controversy, protests, and a lack of a Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. The Glazers’ involvement in the ill-fated European Super League project in 2021 further fueled supporters’ desire for new owners.
The Glazers initiated a strategic review in November, exploring various options to serve the interests of the club’s 1.1 billion global fans and followers. The Glazers had listed a minority stake in the company in New York in 2012.
“Love United, Hate Glazers” has become a common sentiment among fans during their tenure, with supporters criticizing the perceived lack of investment in the club while the owners have benefited from substantial profits generated by the club.
Neither Ineos nor Manchester United provided comments on the matter.
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