Manchester United in exclusive talks with Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim for $6bn+ sale

Negotiations are currently underway between Manchester United, the English football club, and a consortium led by Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, aiming to finalise an exclusive deal valued at over $6 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter.

This development marks a significant milestone in Sheikh Jassim’s endeavour to acquire the renowned sports brand. As the son of Qatar’s former prime minister and one of the wealthiest individuals in the Gulf state, his involvement highlights the seriousness of the bid.

Under the proposed agreement, members of the Glazer family, who possess minority stakes in Manchester United and maintain control through a dual-class share structure, would be selling their shares. Insider sources suggest that the Glazers favour the Qatari offer over a bid made by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of INEOS, a prominent chemicals producer. Ratcliffe’s proposal includes provisions for the Glazers to retain a certain level of interest in the club.

During the exclusivity period, Manchester United would be prohibited from engaging in negotiations with any other potential buyers apart from Sheikh Jassim’s consortium. The exact duration of this exclusivity period remains undisclosed. However, caution is advised as the situation could evolve, and a new bid from Ratcliffe might potentially challenge Sheikh Jassim’s opportunity to secure exclusivity.

The sources, who wished to remain anonymous due to the confidential nature of the matter, revealed that representatives from both Manchester United and Sheikh Jassim’s consortium have not provided immediate comments or responses to the recent developments.

The news of the ongoing negotiations had an immediate impact on Manchester United’s shares, which surged by up to 15%. In the New York Stock Exchange, the shares were trading at a 10% increase, reaching $25.53 on Thursday afternoon.

If the deal materialises, the valuation of Manchester United at over $6 billion would position it among the most substantial transactions ever witnessed in the sports industry. This figure is comparable to the sale of the National Football League’s Washington Commanders earlier this year. Additionally, the proposed acquisition represents a significant premium when compared to other prominent soccer deals. Notably, last year’s acquisition of Chelsea Football Club for $3.1 billion by an investment group led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital valued the club at 5.7 times its previous financial year’s revenue. In contrast, a sale exceeding $6 billion would value Manchester United at over 10 times its annual revenue, based on Refinitiv data.

As a record 20-time English champion, Manchester United boasts a massive fanbase of over 650 million worldwide, according to market research firm Kantar. Many fans have voiced their desire for a change in ownership due to the club’s decline under the Glazers. While the team secured the League Cup under the guidance of manager Erik Ten Hag in the most recent season, their third-place finish in the league, 14 points behind local rivals and treble winners Manchester City, underlines the significant turnaround required to restore the club’s former glory.

Opinions among supporters are divided regarding the potential acquisition by a Qatari owner, with some viewing their financial resources as a means to bridge the gap between Manchester United and Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City. However, others express concerns about Qatar’s human rights record. Several Middle Eastern nations, including Qatar, have faced criticism for leveraging sports investments as a strategy to improve their public image, a phenomenon commonly referred to as “sportswashing.” Qatar, for instance, hosted the 2022 World Cup and owns Ligue 1 club Paris St Germain through Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).

In a similar vein, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has made various forays into the sports industry, including investments in the breakaway LIV Golf Series and its recent merger with the PGA Tour, as well as the ownership of Premier League team Newcastle United.

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