Sell-off! Glazers to sell a stake of Manchester United
Published 23:02 06/08/11 By Simon Mullock
Shares in Manchester United are again up for sale.
But the plan to put a stake of the world’s most famous football club back on the market will only strengthen the Glazer family’s grip on power at Old Trafford.
Sunday Mirror Sport understands that United’s reviled American owners are preparing to sell up to a quarter of the club in a move that could raise more than £400million.
That would enable them to slash the £500m debts that are currently costing United £45million-a-year to service.
And the Glazers would then be able to pay themselves – and other new investors – millions in dividends every year.
Investment giants UBS are advising on the sale which is called an Initial Public Offering.
The Glazers are looking to cash in on between 15% and 25% of United.
They value the club at £1.7billion – an astonishing increase on the £800m they paid when purchasing the Reds in an £800m leveraged buy-out that split the club apart in May 2005.
A city source said: “The belief is that the Glazers are trying to clear as much of the United debt as possible but still retain at least 75% of the club and therefore stay in full control.
“It’s a smart move. It’s a win-win situation for them because it also enables them to put a stop to the criticism that United is a Glazers’ closed shop.
“If they take this route then they will be open to greater public scrutiny and many United supporters – even those who are their biggest critics – will welcome that.
“To make the club attractive to potential investors they will have to aim to pay dividends to all shareholders.
“If they did that at the moment they would be the only beneficiaries and be accused of taking money directly out of the business.
“If they have got other shareholders they can fully justify paying everyone a dividend – and that would be worth tens of millions of pounds to the Glazers.
“Another factor that would please many fans is that this new funding could also create a situation where more money would be made available for Sir Alex Ferguson to spend on his team.”
When asked for a club response to the Glazer sale initiative, a United spokesman said: “We don’t comment on speculation.”
The Glazers will hope that the move will dilute opposition to their reign.
Some fans have refused to step foot inside Old Trafford since they arrived in Manchester and a rebel club, FC United of Manchester, was formed.
Fans opposed to the Glazers claim that the huge sums generated by the club – annual turnover in the last six years has doubled to £300million – should be used to buy players and keep ticket prices in check.
But manager Ferguson has always defended the owners by claiming that he has never been denied money in the transfer market – and last season United won a record 19th title and reached their third Champions League Final in four years.
United chief executive David Gill, who says that United have cash reserves of £168million in the bank, was quoted in a parliamentary report into football governance that he was “comfortable with our financial structure.”
Gill is seen as a vital ingredient in attracting new investment into the club.
When Malcolm Glazer bought United using loans of £660million, he was forced to spend £62million-a-year in interest payments alone.
In January last year, total debts stood at £716.5million, prompting the Americans into a bond issue that raise £526million inside two weeks and enabled them to slash the costs of servicing the club’s debts.
Later that year they paid off high-interest PiK notes of £220million, although it still isn’t clear how they raised the cash given that the business empire of a family that also own NFL franchaise Tampa Bay Buccaneers was reportedly more than £1billion in the red.
In March, parent company Red Football Ventures Ltd announced losses of £108.9million, a figure that included the costs of arranging the bond and £30.2million interest accrued on the PiK loans.
The previous year, a £20million profit had been generated only by the word-record £80million sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.