Who can buy Manchester United?  The billionaire boyhood fan and seven other possible contenders |  UK News

Who can buy Manchester United? The billionaire boyhood fan and seven other possible contenders | UK News

The news that Manchester United’s controversial owners, the Glazer family, may finally sell the club has been greeted with joy by many of their supporters.

Having saddled the club with huge debt and overseeing United’s worst trophy drought in 40 years, Exclusively revealed by Sky News the American owners are considering selling after a 17-year reign dominated by fan protests.

But with a price tag reported to be between £5bn and £9bn, who could buy the club? Sky News looks at the possible contenders.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe

Ineo's chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe

One of Britain’s richest men and – according to Forbes – with a net worth of $13bn (£10.9bn), Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a United fan and a proven sports investor.

He expressed interest in buying United after it was reported in August that the Glazers were considering selling a minority stake in the club.

Sir Jim, chairman and CEO of the chemical company Ineos, already owns the French football club Nice and the Swiss FC Lausanne-Sport, as well as the cycling team Ineos Grenadiers.

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He failed at the last minute £4.25 billion bid to buy Chelsea in May, when American businessman Todd Boehly successfully bought the London club

A source told Sky Sports News in August that Sir Jim was serious about buying United and ex-players would be involved along with Grenadiers general manager Sir Dave Brailsford, a former performance director at British Cycling.

In October, Sir Jim revealed he had met Glazer brothers Joel and Avram, the executive chairman of United, but was told they were not interested in selling the club.

Read more: How ‘scavenger’ Glazers left Old Trafford ‘rusting’ and in a ‘mess’

Red Knights

Lord Jim O'Neill.  Image: Richard Gardner/Shutterstock
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Lord O’Neill was a leading figure in the Red Knights. Image: Richard Gardner/Shutterstock


A group of wealthy United supporters known as the Red Knights were expected to make a bid of around £1.25 billion for the club in 2010.

The group included former Football League chairman Keith Harris, then Goldman Sachs chief economist Lord O’Neill, and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall.

The proposed bid was put on hold after the group said media speculation about “inflated valuation ambitions” had hampered its plans.

But their continued interest in United’s ownership surfaced earlier this year then Sky News revealed that Lord O’Neill and Sir Paul had written to Joel Glazer to demand a series of immediate reforms in the club.

Avram Glazer (L) and Joel Glazer
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Avram Glazer (L) and Joel Glazer are executive co-chairmen of United

They asked the Glazers to commit to reducing their overall stake in United to a maximum of 49.9% to “encourage a wider group of investors to consider ownership of the club in the future”.

It followed Glazer’s involvement in plans to form a breakaway European Super Leaguewhich caused fury among football fans over the whole country.

Sovereign wealth fund

Dubai’s sovereign wealth fund has been named as a potential bidder for Manchester United in reports.

It is yet to follow the likes of Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia in adding a Premier League club to its portfolio.

United’s local rivals Manchester City have enjoyed great success on the pitch since being owned by Abu Dhabi’s City Football Group, while Newcastle United were bought by Saudi Arabia’s giant Public Investment Fund last year.

Newcastle United fans celebrate the Saudi-led takeover of the club
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Newcastle United fans celebrate the Saudi-led takeover of the club

However, any investment from Dubai would raise ethical questions about the involvement of the United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is illegal and, according to Amnesty, the government continues to commit serious human rights abuses.

American private equity firm

There were reports in August that New York-based private equity firm Apollo was in talks to buy a minority stake in United.

Fans’ groups and Gary Neville were among those to voice their opposition, with the former United captain writing on Twitter: “The American model of sports ownership is about significant return on investment…the ownership model in England needs to change and USA money is a more danger to it than any other international money. We need a regulator ASAP!”

Former United players

Former United players Gary Neville and David Beckham both own football clubs
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Gary Neville and David Beckham have invested in football clubs since they retired from playing

A number of former United players have experience of ownership in football clubs and their involvement in a bid for United could prove popular with fans.

Members of United’s famous treble-winning team of 1999 Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs are co-owners of League Two club Salford City, along with Singaporean business magnate Peter Lim.

Beckham is also part owner of American side Inter Miami.

Michael Knighton

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Glazer family ‘has run out of road’

The former Manchester United director, who saw a £20m bid for United collapse in 1989, had recently formed his own consortium to buy the club and claimed to have raised more than £3bn.

He told Sky News in August that the Glazers “has driven off the road” and should be sold.

But Mr Knighton put his own ambitions to buy United on hold to back Sir Jim Ratcliffe to become the new owner and it is unclear whether he will renew his interest.

Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh Ambani, one of India’s richest men with a reported net worth of $90.9bn (£76bn), bought IPL cricket team Mumbai Indians in 2008 and has led them to several titles during his tenure.

The founder of Reliance Industries, the multinational conglomerate, was recently reported to be considering a takeover bid for Liverpool – according to owners Fenway Sports Group said it was open to offers for the club – but his representative denied this, according to Indian media.

Elon Musk

Image: AP
Picture:
Image: AP

The world’s richest man claimed he “bought Manchester United” in a post on Twitter earlier this year, just to later clarify that he was joking.

With a net worth, according to Forbes, of $182.6 billion (£153 billion), Musk certainly has the means to buy the club and has shown he is willing to go ahead with controversial acquisitions through his Purchase of Twitter for 44 billion dollars.

However, it is the Tesla and SpaceX CEO turbulent start to his ownership of the social media platform could scare United and their fans.

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