Football: Qatari Sheikh Jassim submits new bid for Man United – reports

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals giant Ineos, remain the front runners to buy Manchester United should the Glazers give up control of the club. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON – Manchester United have received an improved Qatari bid to buy the English football giants, British media reported on Saturday.

The Press Association and the Guardian, among others, said Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank, had placed a second-round offer overnight.

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe made a revised bid on Thursday as Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus entered the race to own the Old Trafford club.

Bidders were initially told they had until 2100 GMT on Wednesday to submit new offers, but reports say that has been extended.

No figures have been revealed, but one or more of the initial bids were understood to be in the region of £4.5 billion (S$7.3 billion).

That would make Manchester United – who have not won the English Premier League for a decade – the most expensive sports club in history, although it would be short of the £6 billion valuation reportedly placed on United by their current United States-based owners, the Glazer family.

Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals giant Ineos, remain the front runners to buy United should the Glazers give up control of the club.

Zilliacus entered the race on Thursday, with a bid he said will give fans the chance to own 50 per cent of the club.

“My bid is built on equality with the fans,” Zilliacus, founder and chairman of investment company Mobile FutureWorks, said in a statement.

The Glazers have angered many United supporters by saddling the club with huge debts since they took over in 2005. They appeared ready to cash out at an enormous profit when they invited external investment in November.

However, they could yet shun the option of selling a controlling stake in the club, with other parties understood to be interested in a minority shareholding.

The Times reported US hedge fund Elliott Investment Management, which sold AC Milan for US$1.3 billion (S$1.73 billion) last year, has made a bid for a minority stake.

A first round of bidding took place in February and it has been reported that there are as many as eight separate potential investors in the club.

Sheikh Jassim is bidding for 100 per cent control, aiming to return the club to their “former glories”.

A source close to Sheikh Jassim’s bid had earlier told AFP he remains confident his bid is “the best for the club, fans and local community”.

Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, wants to buy the combined Glazer shareholding of 69 per cent.

The 70-year-old Briton told the Wall Street Journal this week he was not interested in paying “stupid prices” for one of football’s most iconic clubs.

Ratcliffe, who already owns French club Nice, said his interest in United would be “purely in winning things”, calling the club a “community asset”.

He visited Old Trafford last week along with Ineos representatives, a day after a delegation from Sheikh Jassim’s group toured the club’s stadium and training ground.

A Qatari purchase of United would boost the sporting profile of the Gulf state months after it hosted the 2022 World Cup, but it would also be controversial.

Sheikh Jassim is the son of a former Qatari prime minister, raising concerns over the potential growth of state influence in the Premier League.

Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City’s fortunes have been transformed since a takeover from Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, in 2008.

In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund bought a controlling stake in Newcastle United.

Amnesty International has called on the Premier League to tighten ownership rules to ensure they are “not an opportunity for more sportswashing”. AFP

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