Sources familiar with the matter have revealed that negotiations are currently taking place between Manchester United, an English football club, and a consortium led by Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani. The exclusive deal being discussed is reportedly valued at over $6 billion, marking a significant milestone in Sheikh Jassim’s endeavor to acquire the renowned sports brand. As the son of Qatar’s former prime minister and one of the wealthiest individuals in the Gulf state, Sheikh Jassim is well positioned for this venture.
Under the proposed agreement, the Glazer family, who hold minority stakes in Manchester United and maintain control through a dual-class share structure, would sell their shares. It is understood that the Glazers favor the Qatari offer over a bid from British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of INEOS, a chemicals producer. Ratcliffe’s proposal suggests that the Glazers would retain some level of interest in the club.
During the exclusivity period, Manchester United would be prohibited from engaging in negotiations with any other potential buyers, limiting discussions exclusively to Sheikh Jassim’s consortium.
The duration of this exclusivity period has not been disclosed. However, sources caution that the situation remains subject to change, and a new bid from Ratcliffe could potentially disrupt Sheikh Jassim’s pursuit of exclusivity.
Representatives from Manchester United and Sheikh Jassim have not provided immediate comments, according to anonymous sources familiar with the matter, who have requested confidentiality due to the sensitive nature of the discussions.
The news of the potential deal has caused a surge in Manchester United’s shares, with an increase of up to 15%, reaching a trading price of $25.53 in New York on Thursday afternoon.
If the deal comes to fruition, the valuation of over $6 billion for Manchester United would rank among the largest in the sports industry, following the recent sale of the National Football League’s Washington Commanders for a similar amount earlier this year. Furthermore, it would represent a significant premium compared to other soccer transactions.
Last year, the acquisition of Chelsea Football Club for $3.1 billion by an investment group led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital valued the club at 5.7 times its previous financial year’s revenue. In contrast, a sale exceeding $6 billion would value Manchester United at over 10 times its annual revenue based on Refinitiv data.
Manchester United, a record 20-time English champion, boasts a global fanbase of over 650 million, according to market research firm Kantar. Many fans have voiced their desire for a change in ownership due to the club’s decline under the Glazers. Although the team achieved success by winning the League Cup under manager Erik Ten Hag this season, their third-place finish in the league, trailing local rivals Manchester City by 14 points, highlights the significant turnaround needed.
Opinions among supporters vary regarding the potential Qatari ownership. Some see it as an opportunity for Manchester United to bridge the gap with Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City, given the prospective owner’s substantial resources. However, others express concerns about Qatar’s human rights record.
Several Middle Eastern nations have faced criticism for using sports investments as a means of enhancing their public image, a practice commonly referred to as “sportswashing.” Qatar, for instance, hosted the 2022 World Cup and owns Ligue 1 club Paris St Germain through Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is also involved in various sports ventures, including the breakaway LIV Golf Series and Premier League team Newcastle United, following a recent merger with the PGA Tour.