Saudi Arabia has joined the race to buy Manchester United ahead of Friday’s nominal deadline, in raising the stakes in what could be the most lucrative deal in sports history.
The 20-time English champions were purchased by the American Glazer family in 2005, and they declared their openness to a sale or investment in November.
The Ineos firm, owned by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, became the first bidder to publicly declare interest in purchasing the club last month.
The state’s ruler, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, was reportedly interested in purchasing United, according to The Guardian, just weeks after the energy-rich Gulf country hosted the World Cup. There have been many rumors about a potential Qatar bid.
Nevertheless, because United’s shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, brokers working on behalf of the club will be required to take proposals even after the “soft” deadline on Friday has passed.
Qatari investors set to bid for Manchester United
The Glazers had stated they were open to both a full takeover and a minority stake, but it now seems the latter is their preferred choice.
The Glazers, who have been deeply unpopular with fans since they burdened the team with enormous debt in a £790 million ($961 million) leveraged buyout in 2005, further incensed supporters by supporting the failed European Super League initiative in 2021.
The largest telecom in the country, Saudi Telecom, and United have previously collaborated.
The £515 billion Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the country reportedly downplayed the prospect of a state-backed approach to the regime due to their association with rival Premier League team Newcastle United.
The three-time European champions are allegedly up for sale, and the Glazers are reportedly asking for £6 billion, which would break Chelsea’s previous record purchase price for a football club.
The Blues was acquired for £2.5 billion by a group led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital, with an additional £1.75 billion in planned infrastructure and player investments.
Human rights organizations who have denounced the Gulf state since the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi would be outraged by any Saudi Arabian investment in the United.
A Qatari takeover would be opposed on similar grounds, with Peter Frankental, Amnesty UK’s economic affairs director, saying it would represent “a continuation of this state-backed sport-swashing project”.
A successful Qatari bid would raise sporting questions as well, given the emirate also controls one of the club’s European rivals, Paris Saint-Germain.
Since 2013, Manchester United has not won the Premier League, and it has not received any awards since 2017.
They have improved under manager Erik ten Hag, who took over before the current season began, and are currently third in the Premier League.