Qatari bid takes early lead in race for acquisition of Man Utd

February 18 – Qatari Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani has confirmed that he has submitted a bid for 100% control of Manchester United, which will be made via his newly formed Nine Two Foundation.

The Qatari bid will be up against a bid from Sir Jim Ratcliffe backed by his company Ineos, who also confirmed that they had made a submission before the ‘soft’ deadline of 10pm Friday night.

It is understood that there are two other bids from US private equity funds though neither the Raine Group, who are handling the sale for Manchester United, or the club have made any formal statement. There is also a rumoured Saudi Arabian bid in the wings.

Since the Glazer family announced the sale of the club, its share price has doubled to valuing the club at more than $3.6 billion. The actual sale price is likely to be much higher with various estimates predicting close to $5 billion – reports say the Qataris have made an initial bid of $4.5 billion while Ratcliffe has bid $4 billion.

The Glazers who bought Man Utd in 2005 for $750 million, are reportedly putting the price at upwards of $6 billion.

Manchester United fans have no love for the Glazers and initial social media chatter was showing support for the Ineos/Ratcliffe bid.

Ratcliffe, a lifelong Man Utd fan who was born in the area, had been a late bid entrant in the Chelsea sale. His bid was based on keeping the club a British asset. He also said that in doing so Ineos would not look to make money out of the club as they made plenty of money in their other businesses.

“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,” an Ineos statement said.

Ratcliife’s bid for Man Utd follows the same principles as his Chelsea bid though following the announcement of the Qatari bid, social media sentiment has swung more towards that bid with fans believing that it will come with a war chest of funds on top.

Shaikh Jassim (pictured) is the son of a former Qatari prime minister whose business life has been in banking. He was educated in the UK and went through the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and graduated as Officer Cadet. Many of the Qatari royals graduated through Sandhurst, including the current Emir Tamim.

He is chairman of Qatari bank QIB, and has previously been a board member of Credit Suisse Group AG and Credit Suisse AG, Zurich.

The bid is promising a debt free acquisition, the redevelopment of Old Trafford and the club’s training ground, as well as a reconnection of the fans with the business 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,” said a statement from the bid.

“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the Club supports.

“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the bid – assuming that it won’t be beaten ion terms of money offered – will be convincing governing bodies that Qatar’s ownership of Paris Saint-Germain should not be a block to Sheikh Jassim’s ambitions to take over. UEFA does not allow two clubs competing in the same competition to be owned by the same entity.

Certainly the bid will have been given the approval of the Emir to go the full distance, and the Qataris are well placed to argue their case that Manchester United would be a separately owned entity. PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khalaifi is chair of the European Club Association and chair of Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) the ultimate owners of PSG. He is also chair of the BeIN Media Group, one of UEFA and the Premier League’s biggest broadcast buyers. That is a lot of leverage that will be careful scrutinised.

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