Manchester United, the storied English football club, is at the heart of a high-stakes negotiation with Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani of Qatar.
The exclusive deal under discussion, reportedly worth more than $6 billion, could mark a new era for the club and represents a major move for Sheikh Jassim, the son of Qatar’s ex-Prime Minister.
In this proposed transaction, the Glazer family, the current minority stakeholders of Manchester United, could sell their shares. Despite holding minority stakes, the Glazers have maintained control of the club through a dual-class share structure.
The sources, who asked to remain anonymous due to the confidential nature of the deal, suggested that the Glazers seem to favor the Qatari offer over a competing bid from British billionaire and INEOS founder, Jim Ratcliffe.
In this exclusive negotiation phase, Manchester United would not be allowed to court offers from other potential buyers. The duration of this exclusivity is still under wraps, and the situation may change. There’s potential for a revised offer from Ratcliffe, which could possibly upset Sheikh Jassim’s exclusivity.
Upon the announcement, Manchester United’s shares experienced a surge of up to 15%, settling at a 10% increase, trading at $25.53 in New York on Thursday afternoon.
The deal, if it goes through, would place Manchester United’s valuation at over $6 billion, a record high in the sporting world, second only to the sale of the National Football League’s Washington Commanders earlier this year. Such a valuation would be a marked increase in comparison to other football club acquisitions.
For instance, last year’s acquisition of Chelsea Football Club by an investment consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital valued the club at 5.7 times its revenue from the previous financial year. In contrast, Manchester United’s potential valuation would be over 10 times its annual revenue, based on Refinitiv data.
Manchester United boasts a massive global fanbase, with over 650 million fans worldwide according to market research firm Kantar.
The club’s performance under the Glazers has caused dissatisfaction among many fans, underscoring the need for change at the helm.
While the club won the League Cup this season under manager Erik Ten Hag, their third-place finish in the league, trailing their local rivals and treble winners Manchester City by 14 points, shows the urgency of a significant turnaround.