The Glazer family, owners of the Buccaneers, prepared to sell Manchester United soccer club
The late tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for about $1.4 billion amid a backlash from fans. Unrest in the following years has led to increasingly angry protests.
The Glazer family — owners of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers — confirmed Tuesday they would consider putting the iconic Manchester United soccer club up for sale.
United said the Glazer family was exploring outside funding to enhance growth — a move that could pave the way to a potential buyout.
“As part of this process, the board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company," it said in a statement.
American investment bank the Raine Group has been enlisted to handle any sale or fresh investment.
Raine earlier this year handled the sale of Premier League club Chelsea to Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, successfully securing 2.5 billion pounds ($3 billion) plus a commitment of 1.75 billion pounds ($2 billion) of further investment.
While there is no guarantee the Glazers will cede complete control of United, the news will provide hope to the team’s supporters who have long-campaigned to drive out the American family.
The late tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for 790 million pounds (then about $1.4 billion) amid a backlash from fans.
Unrest has continued in the following years and in recent times seen increasingly angry protests. A game against Liverpool had to be postponed last year following demonstrations at Old Trafford.
“The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” said co-chairmen Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer in the statement. “As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives. We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future."
They added that throughout the process "we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans, shareholders, and various stakeholders.”
United fans have been critical of the leveraged nature of the Glazers’ buyout that loaded debt onto the club, as well as a perceived lack of investment and the dividends taken out by the owners.
The club has endured a sustained period of decline since the retirement of Alex Ferguson in 2013 — failing to win a league title since then — and has had to watch as fierce rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have dominated English soccer.
United said among its plans for growth was the potential redevelopment of its Old Trafford stadium — something supporters have long called for.
It is likely Raine would use the Chelsea sale as gauge for any valuation — and hope to exceed that figure for one of the most popular sports teams in the world.
Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of petrochemicals firm INEOS, this month dropped his previously held interest in buying United, despite being a longtime fan.
INEOS already owns French club Nice.
“Our position has developed since the summer and we are now focusing our efforts in Nice and raising our ambitions for the club to make them into a top tier club in France to compete with PSG,” INEOS said in a statement. “This would represent much better value for our investment than buying one of the top tier Premier league clubs.”
Liverpool — another storied Premier League club with American ownership — is exploring similar options. Fenway Sports Group said earlier this month that it was open to selling shares of the club it bought in 2010.
The announcement came the same day United said that star Cristiano Ronaldo will leave the team “with immediate effect,” days after he gave an explosive interview criticizing manager Erik ten Hag and the club's owners.
It wasn't known where the 37-year-old Ronaldo will go next next after failing to secure a move to a Champions League club in the summer.
“Following conversations with Manchester United we have mutually agreed to end our contract early,” Ronaldo said. “I love Manchester United and I love the fans, that will never ever change. However, it feels like the right time for me to seek a new challenge.
“I wish the team every success for the remainder of the season and for the future.”
Ronaldo, who is currently in Qatar with Portugal as he aims to win a first World Cup title for his country, has been left frustrated after being reduced to a fringe member of United's team this season.
The Portugal captain said he felt “betrayed” during the 90-minute interview with Piers Morgan, which aired Thursday and in which he was also critical of younger players.
United said last week that it had initiated appropriate steps in response to his comments, with the cancellation of his contract widely expected.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is to leave Manchester United by mutual agreement, with immediate effect,” it said on Tuesday. “The club thanks him for his immense contribution across two spells at Old Trafford, scoring 145 goals in 346 appearances, and wishes him and his family well for the future."
That statement didn't convey the club's dismay after the unauthorized interview.