World Exclusive: Qatar royal family plan £1.5bn takeover of Manchester United
Published 23:00 18/12/10 By Paul Smith
The most famous name in English football is the target for the next wave of Arab invaders.
Across Manchester arch-rivals City are already owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group, led by billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Now Qatar Holdings, an investment vehicle for the Qatari royal family, are pursuing the £1.5billion takeover of Manchester United. The Gulf state of Qatar has already landed the right to stage the 2022 World Cup finals in an audacious international coup.
The Qataris have also accumulated a huge range of trophy assets in England.
These include the Harrods store and spectacular London properties such as One Hyde Park, the Shard of Glass and the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.
Last week the Qatar Foundation, the charity wing of the ruling family, bought the sponsorship rights to the Barcelona shirt. It was a declaration of their intention of getting Qatar accepted as a global football brand.
Qatar Holdings is the third largest shareholder in car-maker VW and has a stake in Porsche.
Its chairman, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani (right), who is also Qatar’s prime minister, is keen to add to their portfolio of investments and sees United as an iconic acquisition. The arrival of the Qatar billions would pave the way for the end of the controversial Glazer family reign.
The Arabs can satisfy any request for proof of funding from the Glazer family in the United States and are also willing to fund a massive transfer fund for manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
United’s massive fan base around the globe are certain to welcome the change of ownership from the controversial Glazer regime.
The American family seized control for £790million in 2005.
But the Americans have incensed United supporters by borrowing against the club’s assets.
They loaded £716m in debt against the club provoking outrage among United fans who believe too much of the club’s income was being directed to pay prohibitive interest payments. A few weeks ago the Glazers did reduce United’s debt by paying back around £200m in PIK loans.
These were payment in kind loans from three hedge funds that were charging 16.25 per cent in annual interest.
Many City observers believed that reduction in debt could spark a Glazer sell-off. There were even rumours that the funding for the change had come from overseas investors keen to take a stake in United – but the Glazers denied this.
A group of United fans calling themselves the Red Knights did try to launch a takeover coup a few months ago but backed off when they discovered the Glazers would not entertain a bid of around £1bn. However, the Qatar Holdings have set aside around £2.5bn in funds to purchase the club and provide Sir Alex Ferguson with unlimited spending power in the transfer market.
So far the Glazers have resisted attempts to drive them out of Old Trafford even though the fans have been so critical of their reign.
Now the scene could be set for the Glazers to leave with a massive profit. Qatar Holdings have been linked with a host of European giants including Barcelona, Real Madrid and United’s Premier League rivals, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle.
However, United have always been top of their wish list.
The purchase of United would leave the club debt free and the most powerful club in the current transfer market.
And even neighbours City, with all their wealth, may find it hard to compete with the potential red revolution.