British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe plans to make an offer that would be worth England’s Manchester United Football Club more than £5 billion, a record acquisition price for a sports team, according to two people briefed on the plan.
Ratcliffe, founder of the chemical empire Ineos, is competing against Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani for the acquisition of the most successful English Premier League soccer club.
Both bidders must submit their proposals to the Glazer family, which controls the club, before a Wednesday 9:00 p.m. UK deadline, the people said. The value of Ratcliffe’s offer includes debt. The value of Sheikh Jassim’s offer remains unclear.
Their offers follow a series of meetings with Manchester United officials at the club’s Old Trafford stadium and at the Carrington training facility. A complete sale would top the $4.65 billion Rob Walton, heir to the Walmart retail fortune, paid to acquire the Denver Broncos football franchise last year.
Manchester United, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has a market capitalization of $4.2 billion and debt of about $700 million. Shares rose 4.8 percent in New York on Wednesday.
The Glazer family, advised by commercial bank The Raine Group, bought United in 2005, in a £790m leveraged buyout led by the late Malcolm Glazer that angered fans for putting the club in debt.
The Glazers were among the first wave of foreign owners to buy into English football, following Roman Abramovich’s takeover of west London rival Chelsea FC in 2003, when the international popularity of the Premier League attracted global capital. .
In May last year, US investors paid £2.5bn to buy Chelsea from Abramovich, who was sanctioned by the UK following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Months later, the Glazers said they would consider selling United as part of a strategic review that could involve raising capital or finding investment partners at Old Trafford.
Several investment firms are also interested in injecting capital in exchange for a minority stake, people with knowledge of the matter said.
Ratcliffe, one of the richest people in Britain, has expanded Ineos from chemicals to consumer brands like Belstaff, a British fashion label. The group also owns a number of sporting assets, including the French soccer club OGC Nice, one-third of the Mercedes Formula 1 team and the Grenadiers cycling team.
Led by Dutch manager Erik ten Hag, Manchester United rose to third in the Premier League after finishing sixth last season and missing out on qualification for the lucrative UEFA Champions League.
Manchester United won their first trophy since 2017 after beating Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final in February.
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