Manchester United’s American owners confirmed on Tuesday that they would consider putting the iconic Premier League club up for sale.
United said the Glazer family is seeking outside funding to boost growth – a move that could pave the way for a potential buyout.
“As part of this process, the board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment in the club, sale or other deals involving the company,” the statement said.
The American investment bank Raine Group has been engaged to handle the sale or new investment.
Raine handled the sale of Premier League club Chelsea to Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital earlier this year, successfully securing £2.5bn ($3bn) and a commitment of £1.75bn ($2bn) of further investment.
While there is no guarantee the Glazers will relinquish complete control of United, the news will give hope to fans of the team who have long fought to eliminate the American family that also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The late tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for £790 million (about $1.4 billion at the time) following backlash from fans.
The riots continued in the following years, with increasingly angry protests seen recently. The match against Liverpool had to be postponed last year because of the demonstrations at Old Trafford.
“Manchester United’s strength is built on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” co-chairs Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer said in a statement. “As we seek to continue the club’s success story, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives. 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.
They added that throughout the process, “we will be fully focused on the best interests of our fans, shareholders and various stakeholders.”
United fans were critical of the leveraged nature of the Glazers’ buyout, which placed the club in debt, as well as the perceived lack of investment and dividends paid by the owners.
The club has been in constant decline since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013 – they have not won a league title since – and have had to watch bitter rivals Manchester City and Liverpool dominate English football.
United have said one of their development plans is the potential redevelopment of the Old Trafford stadium – something supporters have long been calling for.
It’s likely that Raine would use the Chelsea sale as a yardstick for any valuation – and he hopes to surpass that number for one of the world’s most popular sports teams.
Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of petrochemical company INEOS, this month dropped a previous interest in buying United despite being a long-time fan.
INEOS already owns the French club Nice.
“Our position has developed since the summer and we are now concentrating our efforts in Nice and increasing our ambition to make the club a top-flight club in France that could compete with PSG,” INEOS said in a statement. “This would represent much better value for our investment than buying one of the Premier League’s top clubs.”
Liverpool – another Premier League club with American participation – is exploring similar options. Fenway Sports Group said earlier this month it was open to selling shares in the club it bought in 2010.
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