British chemicals billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe has formally entered the process to buy Manchester United, as the Glazer family looks to sell one of the biggest brands in global sport.
Ratcliffe has lodged his interest with Raine Group, the merchant bank advising the English Premier League club, a spokesman for Ratcliffe confirmed on Tuesday.
The Glazers have owned Manchester United since their £790mn leveraged buyout of the club in 2005. The family has had a fraught relationship with the fanbase ever since.
The club’s New York-listed shares were trading up 1.3 per cent at $23.27 each on Tuesday, valuing the company at $4.5bn, including debt. The stock has risen almost 80 per cent since November, when the Glazer family first made public that they were considering selling the club.
United has failed to add to its tally of 13 Premier League titles since the departure of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, adding to the pressure on the Glazers.
Any potential buyer will be faced with the task of restoring the team’s fortunes on the pitch, and upgrading the club infrastructure, including its stadium, Old Trafford, and Carrington training ground. The club has lost £230mn over the past three years, due to the impact of Covid-19, rising wage costs and the failure to qualify for the Champions League.
Raine also handled the sale of Chelsea FC to US investors last year for £2.5bn, a price that reset valuation expectations across European football, prompting a number of club owners to consider taking in outside investment. Liverpool FC owner Fenway Sports Group has also opened the door to selling a stake in the club, and has not ruled out an outright sale.
Manchester United is one of the most valuable assets in the sports industry and claims to have 1.1bn fans and followers around the world. Forbes estimated its value at $4.6bn last year, although others expect any sale to fetch a higher sum.
Ratcliffe, chair of chemicals group Ineos, failed with a last-ditch bid for Chelsea last year. He grew up supporting Manchester United and has previously outlined his interest in buying his boyhood club. However, he came away from a meeting with Joel and Avram Glazer last year with the impression that they “don’t want to sell”.
The Glazers have since stated that they are considering new investment into the club, a sale, and other strategic alternatives, with the aim of strengthening United’s commercial operations, home stadium and training ground.