Manchester United football club could finally be sold by its US owners after 17 years of fan protests and a decline in performance on the pitch.
Sky News can exclusively reveal that the Glazers are preparing to formally announce their intention to look into potential sources of outside investment, which could include a full auction of arguably the most famous football club in the world.
Sources said on Tuesday that investment bankers are being instructed Manchester UnitedThe owner advises on the process, which may include a full or partial sale, or a strategic partnership with a third party.
A statement confirming their intentions could be released soon, one of them said.
The announcement of a review of financial options that could include a sale process would mark the end of years of speculation over whether the Glazers would be persuaded to sell a club that has endured a near-endless football decline over the past decade.
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Old Trafford has not won the Premier League since 2013 and has sacked a string of managers following the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Most recently, the club has been embroiled in a bitter legal battle with its most famous player, Cristiano Ronaldo, after he questioned United’s ambitions in an interview and lambasted the Glazer family’s approach to takeovers.
On Tuesday, United announced that Mr Ronaldo was leaving “with immediate effect”.
The family took control of United in a £790m deal in 2005, largely funded by debt, but could still opt out of a sale.
A partial sale to new investors and the raising of funds to finance a overdue rebuild at Old Trafford is one potential outcome of the process.
The Glazers admit that new infrastructure investment will be needed to transform the stadium into a truly world-class venue, while substantial funding will be required to allow the men’s team to once again compete in Europe’s top competition.
If United are sold outright, it would be the latest top-flight club to change hands after Roman Abramovich agreed to sell Chelsea to a consortium led by American businessman Todd Boley for £2.5bn earlier this year.
United would inevitably be valued in the sale at more than the roughly $2.15 billion market value implied by its share price in Tuesday trading hours on the New York Stock Exchange.
Reports in recent months have speculated that any deal would need to value the club at between £5bn and £9bn to convince owners to sell.
The Glazers took a minority stake in the company public in 2012 but retained overwhelming control through a dual-class share structure, meaning they have nearly all voting power.
For more than 18 months, the club has been promising a mid-size supporter ownership scheme that would give fans the same voting rights structure as the Glazers.
However, despite promises to launch the scheme at the start of the 2021-22 season, it has yet to be launched.
It was one of a series of promises made by United co-chairman Joel Glazer in the wake of the European Super League (ESL) debacle in which the club played a key role.
Manchester United were one of six Premier League sides to agree to join the project, which collapsed within hours of its official launch following a bitter public and political row.
In May 2021, after the Red Devils fans protested against ESL and the Glazer family, they were forced to postpone their home game against arch-rivals Liverpool.
“Love Manchester United, hate Glazers” has become a familiar mantra during their tenure, with supporters criticizing the club’s apparent underinvestment in infrastructure and owners reaping dividends worth hundreds of millions of pounds from their continued commercial success .
If a formal sale process is initiated, attention will turn to the identity of the potential buyer.
Ineos billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who supported Manchester United since childhood, Said in August that he would love to buy the club But it has since been suggested that English football’s elite names are overrated.
Billionaires from around the world will be pegged to bids, as will sovereign investors looking to emulate the kind of takeovers of Newcastle United (now owned by a Saudi state-backed investor) and Qatar-owned Paris Saint-Germain.
There has also been speculation that the Red Knights, a consortium led by former United director and chief economist Lord O’Neill, could revive an attempt to take control of the club launched in 2010.
It is worth noting that United’s anticipated auction comes as Liverpool’s owner Fenway Sports Group is also considering selling all or part of the Anfield club.
It would be unprecedented for two of English football’s so-called “Big Six” – Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – to have a simultaneous sale process.
The timing suggests some investors believe top-flight clubs may be approaching their peak value, especially against the backdrop of tough global economic forecasts for the next few years, one analyst said.
United’s announcement, which is also likely to be announced during the Gulf petrodollar-fueled World Cup, underscores a shift in financing for the global football industry.
United declined to comment on Tuesday.