Glazers, scourge of angry United fans

LONDON • It has been a year of sporting contrasts for American businessman Joel Glazer.

In February, he was in celebratory mood, raising the Vince Lombardi trophy as his American football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, won the Super Bowl.

Three months later, his Premier League side, Manchester United, had to call off their match against rivals Liverpool following protests against the ownership of the club.

The Florida-based Glazer family have faced fan opposition from the moment they completed their takeover of United in 2005. But the leading role they played in the failed attempt to launch the European Super League last month reignited the protests.

The late Malcolm Glazer, the family patriarch who made his fortune in real estate and stocks, bought United in 2005 for £790 million (S$1.46 billion) after entering the sports business in 1995 with a takeover of the Buccaneers.

Since his death in 2014, his two sons, Joel and Avram, have been co-chairmen of United, with the former playing a prominent part in the Super League controversy - he was named the short-lived breakaway's founding vice-chairman. That affair relit the smouldering protest movement among United fans and threw the club into crisis.

Joel Glazer has apologised for the club's involvement in the project. But United fans have not accepted the apology.

Former United captain Gary Neville, a Sky Sports pundit, said on Sunday: "The Glazers say they want to rebuild the trust but they never had the trust of the supporters."

The hostility to the Glazers was focused on the nature of their takeover - a leveraged deal in which United took on loans of £525 million to finance the acquisition. United, a debt-free organisation before the Glazers bought the club, have debts of £455.5 million, according to their latest accounts released on March 4.

The Guardian reported in 2018 that the Glazers' takeover had drained over £1 billion out of United in interest, costs, fees and dividends since 2005.

United have not won a Premier League title since 2013, struggling to compete with local rivals Manchester City and Liverpool.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2021, with the headline 'Glazers, scourge of angry United fans'. Subscribe