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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Sir Jim Ratcliffe set to buy initial stake in Manchester United after outplaying Sheikh Jassim

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Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos are now in line to buy an initial 25 per cent stake in Manchester United, with the decision set to be ratified at a club board meeting this week. The billionaire petrochemicals mogul wants this to be a “path to a majority”, according to involved figures, and will already be seeking influence on football decisions.

While Sheikh Jassim’s withdrawal was confirmed on Saturday evening, this has been interpreted as “face-saving”, as the ultimately underwhelming Qatari bid had been tactically outmanoeuvred by Ineos. It had long been felt by those with knowledge of Ratcliffe’s bid that Avram and Joel Glazer would ultimately never agree on a full sale now – preventing the unanimity required – which led the Ineos bid to pursue alternative options.

Ratcliffe’s decision to go for a 25 per cent minority stake, valued at around £1.3bn, was seen as bringing a breakthrough in the last month while also staving off any concerns about legal challenges if he went for the Glazers’ 67 per cent. The owners of A shares had been willing to go to litigation if Ratcliffe only agreed to purchase the more powerful B shares, but he will now purchase a mix.

Qatar never budged from only wanting a full sale but their offer of around £5bn was consistently seen as surprisingly low, and figures involved always found it confusing as to why the Jassim-fronted bid went no higher given the obvious prestige of such a club. One figure with knowledge of the Qatari side insisted that some of it came down to the perception of getting a good deal and not being seen to overpay.

The irony is that one reason Joel and Avram Glazer have been so reluctant to sell is because they still expect an explosion in valuation over the next decade.

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