Manchester United are in crisis. This Saudi Prince will offer $5.7 billion to turn the club around
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is reportedly ready to make a third attempt to buy Manchester United, with his latest offer valued at over £3 billion (A$5.66 billion).
The club’s current owners, the Glazer family from the United States, completed a controversial takeover of United in 2005, but have struggled to maintain the marquee club’s success and have saddled the club with massive debts.
Now one of the most influential members of Saudi Arabia’s royalty is ready to buy them out — and challenge the big-money supremacy of cross-city rivals Manchester City.
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United fans have staged repeated protests against the Glazers, including before last weekend’s draw against old rivals Liverpool.
But it remains to be seen whether the Glazers would cash in on their investment after 14 years in charge.
United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward publicly declared the owners would remain for the ‘long term’.
“Based on what I see, they’re in it for the long term,” Woodward last week told the United We Stand fanzine.
“With regards to offers or asking prices, my understanding is that there have been no discussions for a price for the club or anything like that.
“Every conversation we have is based on the long-term.”
The Glazers purchased the club for £790 million in 2005, but the club’s value has almost quadrupled to £3 billion (A$5.66 billion). And at least one member of the Glazer family is ready to cash in.
Co-owner Kevin Glazer is now prepared to sell his 13 per cent stake in United, recent reports have claimed.
He has made around £270m (A$510m) of shares publicly available on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), with a further A$95m also under his control and potentially up for sale.
But there are still a number of co-owners to convince: Avram, Joel, Bryan, Edward and Darcie Glazer, to be precise.
UNITED’S NEXT OWNER?
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was first reported to be interest in investing in the club in October 2018.
At the time, multiple reports claimed he was seeking a complete takeover or buyout of the Glazers, rather than a partial stake.
Bin Salman is a hugely influential member of the Saudi royal family — the House of Saud — which is worth an estimated A$2 trillion.
The Crown Prince’s net worth is believed to be around A$13 billion alone, more than enough to cover the reported offer of A$5.66 billion.
But he was involved in the fallout from the assassination of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was widely alleged by global human rights groups to have been committed with bin Salman’s permission or at least knowledge.
The global diplomatic aftermath of the incident put a halt to his takeover interest, but it appears he is now ready to try again.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR UNITED
The Glazers spent £143.1m (A$270.2m) on transfers in the off-season, acquiring Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Daniel James.
And coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already promised that he’s been given financial backing from the owners to continue his recruitment in the January transfer window.
But a new owner would almost certainly increase their spending in an attempt to lift United from their current 14th spot in the Premier League ladder.
And while Solskjaer has repeatedly said he is embarking on a long-term project to turn the club around — earmarking a term of three years to have the side among the best in Europe — the arrival of Bin Salman would likely lead to increased pressure on the Norwegian coach to speed up that timeline.
And it would add an extra layer of intrigue to the Manchester derby, given local rivals Manchester City are owned by another highly-influential and wealthy Middle Eastern figure.
City’s owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed is a member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, worth a combined total of around A$1 trillion.
Mansour — the Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE — has a personal wealth estimated at $32 billion, more than double that of bin Salman.
Under Mansour’s ownership — he purchased the club in 2008 for £210 million — City have completed a remarkable rise to become one of England’s elite clubs.
For Manchester United fans, a takeover deal from Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman could provide them with the opportunity to join City among the greatest teams in the world.
And six seasons on from the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, many would believe that it’s about time.