Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani has informed Manchester United’s owners, the Glazers, that he has withdrawn from the process to buy the club, viewing their valuation as highly unrealistic when compared to his £5bn-plus final offer. This leaves Sir Jim Ratcliffe as the only other publicly declared interested potential purchaser.
The decision will come as a bitter blow to the large constituency of United supporters who remain deeply unhappy with the Glazers’ ownership due to the near-£1bn debt the club has been saddled with.
The Qatari billionaire’s offer was a cash bid for a 100% stake and guaranteed further funds to completely clear the debt.
United are valued at about $3.2bn (£2.63m), with Sheikh Jassim’s offer close to double that amount. Yet after further recent discussions the Glazers made clear their asking price and Sheikh Jassim pulled out after what sources close to him describe as “a fanciful and outlandish valuation”. He had also pledged a further $1.7bn to finance transfers, plans for a new stadium and training centre facilities, plus city and community regeneration projects.
He is now out of the process unless the Glazers lower their valuation to possibly revive his interest, meaning only the offer from Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest people, remains. While his initial offer was for around 51% it was reported recently this has changed to 25%.
Sheikh Jassim is conscious that while any offer from Ratcliffe for 25% of United may value the club at more than his 100% bid this is because the Ineos owner would be buying a far smaller stake so can afford to do so. If Ratcliffe’s bid is accepted this would leave one or more of the Glazers with a stake in the club, which would be greeted with dismay by many fans.
The development comes 11 months after the Glazers began the process. On 22 November last year they stated they were “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” in a move that signalled their proprietorship, which began in 2005, could end. The club said the process would consider a number of options “including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”.
Sheikh Jassim has made a series of bids that culminated in a fifth and final offer in June. Despite the drawn-out process he and Ratcliffe had been prepared to remain patient. It now seems Sheikh Jassim’s patience has run out.
It is also a setback for the manager, Erik ten Hag, whose wish is for certainty as soon as possible as he bids to bring stability and return success to the team.