Manchester United for sale: how much are they worth, who could buy them — and what next

It takes some doing for the news that Manchester United had terminated the contract of Cristiano Ronaldo to be relegated to only the second biggest story coming out of Old Trafford on Tuesday.

But even Ronaldo’s acrimonious departure was overshadowed by the news that the Glazer family have instructed banks to handle the sale of United.

The confirmation of the Premier League club being on the market came once the New York Stock Exchange, where they are publicly listed, finished trading for the day.

Supporters feverishly greeted the news that the Glazer family’s 17-year reign of United could be entering its final stages. But this is unlikely to be a fast process, and there is plenty to pick through.

Club takeovers can be confusing things. And United’s 333-word statement — with its talk of “evaluations,” “strategic alternatives” and “future growth” — was not the easiest of reads for the layman. So, as a starting guide to the process, we have attempted to answer some key questions.

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Glazer family instructs banks to handle sale of Manchester United


What have the Glazer family said?

Avram and Joel Glazer said in a statement they are considering selling the club as they “explore strategic alternatives”.

They said: “The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers.

“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.”

How long have the Glazers owned United?

The Glazer family bought their first shares in Manchester United — which amounted to just under a three per cent stake — in March 2003. They continued to increase their shareholding incrementally before completing a full, leveraged takeover of the club in June 2005.

When the buyout was completed, and the exchange rate taken into account, the final valuation was around £790 million ($1.5 billion).

Malcolm Glazer in 2005 (Photo: Getty Images)


Malcolm Glazer in 2005 (Photo: Getty Images)

Have United instructed banks?

yes Manchester United revealed that Raine Group, who worked on the Chelsea sale this year, are acting as the club’s exclusive financial advisor.

Rothschild & Co, a multinational investment bank and financial services company, are working on behalf of the Glazer family shareholders.

So why are Manchester United for sale now?

There have been many stories claiming the Glazer family have been considering selling up during their controversial 17-years in charge.

But this time it’s different.

The American family, who own NFL franchise the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have been targeted by fan protests since their takeover in June 2005.

In more recent years, they have fallen behind their Premier League rivals on and off the pitch, despite spending more than £1 billion on transfers since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

A decade of decline

Season Manager League position Trophies won

2013-14

Moyes, Giggs

7th

0

2014-15

VanGaal

4th

0

2015-16

VanGaal

5th

1

2016-17

Mourinho

6th

2

2017-18

Mourinho

2nd

0

2018-19

Mourinho, Solskjaer

6th

0

2019-20

Solskjaer

3rd

0

2020-21

Solskjaer

2nd

0

2021-22

Solskjaer, Rangnick

6th

0

Old Trafford, United’s 75,731-seater stadium, is in desperate need of renovation and there has been little to suggest the Glazers intent to provide the cash to make the changes.

According to the statement released by United, their “strategic review” will take into account “an assessment of several initiatives to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment, and expansion of the club’s commercial operations on a global scale”.

Did the Glazer family outline other options they may consider as opposed to a full sale?

It was evident in the wording of the club’s statement that they are open to boosting their finances by alternative means. This would be similar to how other ownership groups have welcomed outside investment.

Fenway Sports Group, for example, sold a 10 per cent stake in Liverpool to Redbird Capital. Elsewhere, Silver Lake bought a 10 per cent shareholding in City Football Group in 2019.

“As part of this process, the board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company,” United’s statement read.

It was also noted that “there can be no assurance that the review being undertaken will result in any transaction involving the company”.

In other words: external investment or a complete sale is not guaranteed.

United are meanwhile expected to use the potential sale to be more open and transparent about the running of the club.

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How much are Manchester United worth?

Elite level Premier League clubs are not put up for sale very often — but Todd Boehly’s deal to buy Chelsea this year is a good place to start when considering what United are worth.

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How do you value a football club?

Boehly and Clearlake Capital spent £2.5 billion to buy Chelsea. You can say with some certainty that the Glazer family will be able to command a bigger fee than that.

Forbes, the American business title that attempts to value football clubs, agrees. Their most recent valuation of the club was $4.6 billion. That was worth £3.7bn at the time but is now more like £3.85bn due to the dollar’s strength in recent months. (It is worth noting this makes assets priced in pounds cheaper for Americans.)

Across the Atlantic, the Denver Broncos, an NFL franchise, were sold for $4.65 billion (£3.87bn) to the Walton-Benner group in August. Forbes also values ​​the Washington Commanders, another NFL franchise on the market, at $5.6bn (£4.7bn).

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire noted that United’s share price was up 17 per cent following the news of a potential sale, which added close to $400million (£336.5m) to their market capitalisation.

Should a full sale go through, it would not come as a surprise if United become the most expensive sale in Premier League history, as they were when the Glazers bought them.

Who could afford to buy them?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, owner of Ineos and Britain’s richest person, has discussed the idea of ​​buying Manchester United. He owns Nice in France.

“I’m a lifelong Manchester United fan,” Ratcliffe said in October. “I have met Joel and Avram. They are the nicest people, I have to say, proper gentlemen.”

Elon Musk, the world’s richest person and new owner of Twitter, joked in August that he wanted to buy United. Stories emerged this year suggesting that the Glazer family were in exclusive talks with US private equity fund Apollo Global Management.

Elon Musk has joked about buying the club (Photo: Getty Images)


Musk has joked about buying the club (Photo: Getty Images)

Four American bidders made the shortlist to buy Chelsea, and you would expect there to be significant US interest in United considering the Premier League’s popularity with investors from the United States.

The Saudis have Newcastle, Abu Dhabi are all-in with Manchester City and Qatar have thrown their financial weight behind Paris Saint-Germain. Could a buyer from Kuwait, another oil rich state emerge? Possibly.

China has pulled the plug on investment in football overseas, while it could be India’s time to get involved in Premier League ownership.

Put simply: you are going to have to be bloody rich to complete a takeover of Manchester United. Only those with the very deepest pockets need apply.

Does this have anything to do with the failure of the Super League?

Since the failed attempt to create a breakaway Super League, several clubs involved in the dommed project have either been sold or put up for sale.

Liverpool, United’s great Premier League rivals, are in a similar situation. The Athletic revealed earlier this month that Fenway Sports Group, the club’s owners, are seeking new investment.

Does Liverpool being for sale make this more complicated?

The fact England’s two biggest and most historical clubs are up for sale is quite something.

On the face of it, Liverpool are arguably a more attractive proposition.

They are ahead of United on and off the pitch, with a new training ground and significant development to Anfield having taken place.

The new £80 million Anfield Road Stand, due to open next summer, will complete FSG’s redevelopment of the stadium and lift the capacity to 61,000. They spent £50 million on the training complex in Kirkby.

Liverpool are also up for sale (Photo: Getty Images)


Liverpool are also up for sale (Photo: Getty Images)

These are facts you cannot get away from, and it makes them attractive to potential investors.

United need work to be done at Old Trafford and there is a desire, as pointed out in the statement on Tuesday night, for the club’s infrastructure to be improved.

This will not be cheap, and is something that would-be buyers will take into consideration when assessing United’s value and how much they will need to spend.

Which other Premier League clubs are for sale?

While clubs may not officially be on the market, every owner would consider a serious offer. So, based on that, almost every top-flight side is available at the right price.

We do know for certain that Liverpool are for sale, while Bournemouth are going through a process that will see Bill Foley, the American billionaire and owner of the Vegas Golden Knights, a Las Vegas based NHL franchise, become their new owner.

How has Newcastle’s rise impacted things?

The Saudi takeover of Newcastle has created another Premier League team — along with Manchester City — with a seemingly bottomless pit of cash.

Newcastle are third in the table, two places ahead of United, and have been in brilliant form since the start of the calendar year.

While this may not have directly influenced the Glazer family to put the Premier League’s most successful club on the market, they are another domestic rival they will struggle to keep up with as far as investment is concerned.

Why has their ownership been controversial?

United fans have long protested for a number of reasons. It started when they borrowed money against United to fund their buyout. Two years after they completed a hostile takeover, the club was £660 million in debt.

The debt was divided between the club and Red Football, the investment vehicle the Glazers used to buy United, although the club would be responsible for paying the interest.

Consequently, between 2006 and 2010, United paid out on average £95 million per year to service the debt.

Old Trafford is in need of renovation (Photo: Getty Images)


Old Trafford is in need of renovation (Photo: Getty Images)

Supporters felt the club’s revenues should be reinvested into the club’s infrastructure, such as the stadium, academy and first team, rather than dealing with interest payments.

They refinanced this debt via a £500 million bond issue and then by floating the club on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. The cash generated was split between the Glazers bank accounts and reducing the club’s debt.

The Glazer family also started taking dividends out of the club in 2016.

Since then, they have received more than £150 million in dividends and are the only owners in the Premier League to receive payments in this way.

United’s most recent set of financial accounts, for the year ending June 2022, saw the club record a £115.5 million net loss, while seeing their net debt rise £95.4m to a total of £514.9m.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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