Sir Jim Ratcliffe is committed to buying out the Glazers completely at Manchester United and will match Qatar in promising a major redevelopment of Old Trafford and the club’s training base.
On Friday night, Ratcliffe and Qatar both announced their intentions to buy the club, which has been offered for sale by the current owners. Securing political backing has been cited as key within the Ratcliffe camp as the takeover coincides with the Government’s White Paper on the regulation of football clubs.
With human rights groups already speaking out against Qatar’s rival bid, Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group says “football governance in this country is at a crossroads”. Ratcliffe, who was at the Nou Camp in 1999 for United’s treble win, will rely on his local background to rally support. Brokers were known to have been initially keen to install a British owner during the sale of Chelsea last summer.
However, with debt financing from Wall Street giants, Ratcliffe, who has a personal worth of £6 billion, says he will make United “the number one club in the world once again”. As part of a wider plan, Telegraph Sport is aware of ambitions for major capital investment on infrastructure.
A key element of the overdue White Paper is tougher powers to stop owners taking control of their clubs without explicitly detailing the source of their wealth.
Part of Ratcliffe’s offer is bankrolled by Wall Street giants JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. However, rival bidder Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani would have to declare whether his proposed funding relies on the state’s sovereign wealth fund, a subsidiary of which Paris St-Germain owns.
And the race to find a new owner continued to gather pace on Saturday as sources close to American hedge fund giant Elliott, former owners at AC Milan, confirmed that it had offered to provide financing for a bid. A full takeover by Elliott has been ruled out, although it is possible that the firm could join forces with a prospective majority bidder, including one of the many US investors monitoring the situation. Elliott sold Milan to the private equity firm Redbird last August.
‘Putting the Manchester back into Manchester United’
In a statement on Saturday drawing contrast with potential state-sponsored offers, Ineos said: “We would want to help lead this next chapter, deepening the culture of English football by making the club a beacon for a modern, progressive, fan-centered approach to ownership. We want a Manchester United anchored in its proud history and roots in the North-West of England, putting the Manchester back into Manchester United and clearly focusing on winning the Champions League.”
Ratcliffe’s stated bid is for “majority ownership”, while Qatar’s offer is for “100 per cent”. Given the pledge, Sheikh Jassim, who is also promising to wipe out the clubs debts, would have to immediately persuade all Class A shareholders at United to sell. As it stands, only the Glazers’ Class A shares are available.
Telegraph Sport understands that Ratcliffe is a sole bidder and wants to buy all shares currently available, Other bids for the club are likely to become known in the coming days after the soft deadline for offers expired at 10pm on Friday.
All interested parties are understood to be aware of improvements needed at Old Trafford. Ratcliffe’s vision for the club is said to include a major capital investment on improving infrastructure. Potential redevelopment has been quoted by experts at over £1 billion on top of the basic purchase price. Nevertheless, the Glazers are still understood to value their ownership of the club at £5 billion.
Telegraph Sport had been the first to confirm Ratcliffe’s firm offer to the Raine Group conducting the sale and Ratcliffe will offer a compelling case to some United fans. Others will prefer the huge wealth of Qatar and its sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), to which Sheikh Jassim has close family links.
There are expected to be declarations of interest from US private equity consortiums in the coming days.
Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co are understood to be backing Ratcliffe’s offer with bonds and loans beyond the value of United’s existing debt of £659 million. It is understood that none of Ratcliffe’s new debt would be placed on the club, however.
Sheikh Jassim’s Doha bid team are promising to make the club entirely debt free. Sheikh Jassim said in a statement that his submission was for “100 per cent” of the club. “The bid plans to return the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch, and – above all – will seek to place the fans at the heart of Manchester United Football Club once more,” his statement added.
Ratcliffe is a familiar figure to both the Glazers, having held talks with them last year, and the New York-based Raine Group. Brokers held talks with Ratcliffe at the start of the fraught sale of Chelsea last year. He walked away citing the price but then returned several weeks later with an offer which matched Todd Boehly’s successful offer for the club. But despite several previous failed attempts to buy both Chelsea and United, he has demonstrated to key deal-makers that he is deadly serious about getting the United deal over the line.