A lot happened on 22 November 2022. Argentina lost their opening World Cup game to Saudi Arabia, Cristiano Ronaldo officially left Manchester United and the Glazer family put the entire club up for sale.

Almost a year later – although it feels a lot longer – Argentina are the reigning world champions, Ronaldo is the figurehead of Saudi football and United’s time in the shop window may mercifully be creaking towards a close.

On 14 October 2023, it emerged that Sir Jim Ratcliffe had outmanoeuvred Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani in the two-horse race for United by agreeing to buy a minority stake in the club.

Here’s everything you need to know about Ratcliffe’s proposal and how it will affect United’s loathed owners, the Glazers.

Sir Jim RatcliffeSir Jim Ratcliffe

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been ranked as the second richest person in Britain / Eric Alonso/GettyImages

At the April deadline for revised bids, Ratcliffe offered to purchase a 51% stake in the club, leaving Joel and Avram Glazer as minority shareholders. However, there was a distinct concern that the structure of Ratcliffe’s bid – by only purchasing shares from the Glazers – would devalue the stock owned by the club’s remaining shareholders. The threat of legal action reportedly unsettled United’s board.

And so, in search of a backdoor into his boyhood club, Ratcliffe conjured the idea of securing a minority stake in United, as 90min revealed at the start of October.

The owner of the petrochemicals behemoth INEOS came in with a revised offer of a 25% stake in the club at an exorbitant fee of £1.3bn but with scope to purchase more shares in the future.

Ratcliffe’s premium bid – which values the club at more than £5bn – supposedly comes with the proviso that he will be in charge of all sporting decisions – i.e. with the power to select the football director, first-team coach and perhaps even which signings are made.

The day before Ratcliffe was greeted outside Old Trafford by Manchester United’s chief executive Richard Arnold in March 2023, a delegation representing Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation was escorted around the Theatre of Dreams.

After a glut of US hedge funds fell away after the first soft deadline in spring 2023, Jassim’s cash bid for a 100% stake cemented his status as Ratcliffe’s most serious competitor.

However, following months of negotiations – which never lifted the veil of mystery surrounding Jassim, a man whose own spokespeople couldn’t precisely age – the Nine Two Foundation withdrew from the race after declining to increase their latest offer.

That final bid stood at a reported £5bn and came with the promise of clearing the club’s £725m debt accrued by the Glazers while also offering a further £1.4bn to fund a new stadium, training centre and transfer kitty.

The Glazers’ valued United at an eye-watering £10bn, far beyond the £2.6bn valuation based on the club’s standing in the stock market. Despite boasting a supposedly enormous wealth, Sheikh Jassim would not dig any deeper in his pockets.

Avram GlazerAvram Glazer

Avram Glazer attended the 2023 FA Cup final which Man Utd lost against Man City / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

The original wording of the release that put United’s up for sale last November looks telling with the power of hindsight. The “process to explore strategic alternatives” included “new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company”. However much the fans implored them to leave, the Glazers were never committed to a clean break.

By purchasing only 25% of the club, including shares from the Glazers and other investers to avoid any legal headaches, Ratcliffe is not removing the American family from United’s helm.

It remains to be seen whether the Glazers will relinquish sporting control to Ratcliffe – that has never been an overriding interest for the family – but they will still very much be a significant part of the club. After cashing in around £165m in dividends since their leveraged buyout in 2005 – more than £9m per year – why would the Glazers give up such an easy revenue stream for anything less than their wild valuations?

The decision to accept Ratcliffe’s proposal will be made after a vote from the club’s board in the coming week. The six Glazer siblings fill half of the dozen seats but boast 96% of the voting rights. If they want this deal to go through, it will.


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