The Glazer family has announced it is “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” for Manchester United, potentially bringing an end to its 17-year ownership of the club.
On the day it was also confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo had left Old Trafford by mutual consent, a statement from United on Tuesday night revealed plans to identify new investment that could lead to a potential sale. The club said the process led by their American owners will consider a number of options “including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”.
The Raine Group, which oversaw the sale of Chelsea earlier this year, has been appointed as the exclusive financial adviser.
“The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” said the executive co-chairmen and directors, Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer. “As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives. We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the Club today and in the future. Throughout this process we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans, shareholders, and various stakeholders.”
United were most recently valued at £3.75bn but would expect to fetch far more given that a consortium led by the US businessman Todd Boehly paid £4.25bn for Chelsea in May.
The Glazer family can expect to attract a number of interested suitors as the successful bidder would have the opportunity to markedly increase the club’s value.
Sky News said United’s share price immediately rose by 17% after reports the glazers were considering a sale emerged, adding almost $400m (£335m) to the club’s market capitalisation.
Old Trafford and the vast land that surrounds the stadium has the potential to undergo a development that would transform it into a destination venue similar to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Spurs’ £1bn investment includes a Michelin star grade restaurant, a complex of high end stores, a Grade II-listed building, an art gallery and Europe’s largest club shop.
In August, Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest person, expressed an interest in buying United. “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer,” a spokesperson for him said.
Last month, though, Ratcliffe claimed he had met the Glazers and they did not wish to sell.
“We can’t sit around hoping that one day Manchester United will become available,” the Manchester‑born businessman said.
“We have an exciting sporting franchise [the Ligue 1 side Nice], but the one thing we don’t have is a Premier [League] team. The most popular sport in the world is football and it is the sport we were brought up with and it’s the one most close to us. We really should have an asset in the sporting franchise.”
While his interest might now be revived, the sizable constituency of United fans who are hostile to the Americans will be delighted if they do decide to sell. The Glazers have faced serial unrest since Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 via a leveraged financial model that loaded a debt on the club that still stands at around £500m.