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Manchester United Takeover: INEOS set to buy Stake in Club


What Has Happened?

In November 2022, Manchester United fans received the news they had been waiting so long for. The Glazer family announced that they were ‘commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives’ for the club, effectively stating they were open to potential buyers or investors.

However, fast forward 11 months later, fans are still left confused and angered by their owner’s actions. Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim has just revealed that he has withdrawn from the sale process, sparking plans for another large protest in the near future. Instead, it seems a deal for INEOS CEO Sir Jim Ratcliffe to purchase a 25% stake in the club is now in place.

Why are Manchester United Fans Angry?

Whilst the ownership issues are the root cause of most anger for Manchester United fans, their frustrations are clearly not helped by struggles on the pitch. Under Erik Ten Hag, they have lost six of their first 11 games of the season, including defeat in the opening two matches of the Champions League, producing multiple lacklustre performances. Off-pitch situations with players such as Antony and Jadon Sancho have also dampened the overall mood at Old Trafford.

The Glazer’s 18-year tenure has seen plenty of success, including five Premier League titles and a Champions League under Sir Alex Ferguson. Though since the legendary manager retired in 2013, it has been a decade of underachievement and trouble. Following his departure, United have appointed six different managers, not including caretakers, but none have been able to reach the heights expected of a club of this stature. Although big names such as Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal have had stints in the dugout, the past decade has produced just one FA Cup, two Carabao Cups and a Europa League trophy.

In March 2003, the Glazers acquired a 2.9% stake in the club, increasing to 15% by the end of the year, before they eventually became majority owners in June 2005. Prior to this, fans held a protest at Old Trafford against the potential takeover, making it clear they were not welcome from day one. The £790m takeover was completed with the Glazers investing just £270m of their own money, with the rest financed by a number of loans which loaded the club into more than £500m worth of debt, a figure which has been doubled since.

The latest news that Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim has withdrawn from the ownership race due to valuation disagreements has meant that the frustration of the fans towards the Glazers has increased considerably.

Who is Sheikh Jassim?

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani is the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) and is a member of the Qatari royal family. His family is worth close to $275bn, and he reportedly has a personal net worth of around $1.5bn. Whilst he has no prior experience in sports ownership, his father has some involvement with Paris St-Germain. Jassim is also thought to be a lifelong Manchester United fan.

Once it was made clear that the Glazers were open to new investments in the club, Sheikh Jassim submitted his proposal in February of this year, estimated at over £5 billion. This was for full ownership of the club and reportedly completely debt-free.

Aside from his bid to buy the club, Jassim committed an extra $1.5 billion, to be used for stadium upgrades, squad acquisitions, and community development projects. The stadium has not been expanded since 2005 and recently suffered from leaks in the roof of the main stand.

His withdrawal has angered fans as the takeover plans looked to provide hope and optimism for the future of arguably the country’s biggest club. However, the latest developments have sent them back to square one.

What we know about Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Alongside Jassim, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the chairman and CEO of chemicals company INEOS, was the other interested buyer. He is one of Britain’s richest men with an estimated net worth of £29.3bn, and failed with a takeover bid of Chelsea last year.

Following Jassim’s withdrawal, Ratcliffe is now the only remaining bidder, and is expected to complete a £1.3bn purchase of 25% of the club. He had previously expressed interest in buying United in August 2022, however, meetings had not gotten anywhere.

Whilst the Glazers will maintain control of the club, Ratcliffe is buying a stake with a look to eventually taking over completely. INEOS are reportedly intending to run the sporting side of the operation in the meantime, with the commercial side still controlled by the Glazers.

INEOS and Ratcliffe already have previous experience in the running of sports teams, owning French Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss club Lausanne, while holding a 33% stake in Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and INEOS Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky Cycling Team).

What Happens Next?

Following the withdrawal of Sheik Jassim’s bid, the Manchester United Supporters Trust released a statement outlining their concerns about The Glazers’ intentions. They said, "What supporters should expect at the very least now is some clarity and an end to this process. Furthermore, the outcome must include new investment into the club. It cannot be solely about the interests of shareholders, whether existing or new.’

Despite fresh investments seemingly coming in very soon, the Glazer family will still be prominent figures at the club, meaning fans’ wishes to get them out will remain for the foreseeable future. Ratcliffe and INEOS will hope to take over full control, however, previous actions of the current owners have given United supporters little confidence that this will eventually become a reality.