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Manchester United owners, reviled by many of the team's fans, may sell club

The America Glazer family bought the club for $939.07 million in 2005 in a highly leveraged deal that has been criticized for loading debt onto the club.
Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League - Old Trafford
Manchester United fans protest against the Glazer family, ahead of the Premier League match at Old Trafford on April 28, 2022. Martin Rickett / PA via Getty Images

Manchester United has said it was commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives, including a new investment or a potential sale, 17 years after the American Glazer family bought the English Premier League soccer club.

The Glazer family is working with financial advisers on the process, which could lead to a partial sale of the Old Trafford club or investments including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment, the club said in a statement.

Manchester United fans have been clamoring for a change of ownership and the Glazers have been the target of intense criticism as the team have gone five years without winning a trophy. The last silverware they won was the Europa League and League Cup back in 2017.

“As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives,” Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, executive co-chairmen and directors of United, said in the statement.

Manchester United's co-owners Joel Glazer and Avram Glazer.Oli Scarff / AFP - Getty Images file

“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,” the statement said.

In August, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe had expressed interest in buying United, Reuters reported. At the time, Elon Musk had also joked about planning to buy the club.

Wealthy Asian tycoons, especially those from China, have been buying European teams in recent years including Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers and Italy’s Inter Milan.

However, football clubs have since been deemed unfavorable assets by China and any major overseas purchase would seem unlikely at the moment, said Mark Dreyer, Beijing-based author of “Sporting Superpower,” a book about China’s sports ambitions.

“It’s almost impossible to see how any Chinese-related entity could justify a purchase of this magnitude in the current climate,” he said. .”.. with China only just now facing up to the realities of COVID-19, which makes the entire economic environment that much more uncertain, no state body would approve this kind of deal.”

The owners are under pressure with United sitting fifth in the Premier League halfway through the season, which has been suspended because of the current Qatar World Cup.

Manchester United shares jumped as much as 20% after Sky News first reported on the sale process, giving the club a market capitalization of $2.6 billion.

Christiano Ronaldo Manchester United Striker Leaves Club.
Manchester United's Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving the club.Oli Scarff / AFP - Getty Images

The company was worth $2.5 billion at the close of U.S. trading on Tuesday. At its peak as a public company, it had a market capitalization of $4.3 billion in 2018.

Also on Tuesday, the club said that star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will leave with immediate effect, marking a bitter end to the Portugal captain’s second spell at Old Trafford after he said he felt betrayed by the club.

The Glazers bought the club for 790 million pounds ($939.07 million) in 2005 in a highly leveraged deal which has been criticized for loading debt onto the club.

United has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2012, when the Glazers sold 10% of their holding via the listing and have sold more shares since.