THE battle for control of Manchester United is taking a significant step forward with both main bidders at Old Trafford this week.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani is understood to be sending his representatives to United for talks with the Glazer family’s chosen selling agent, the Raine Group, today.
And on Friday, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos will have agents at Old Trafford for the first proper scrutiny of the club’s financial books.
The meetings were set in motion when the two bidders were approved by Raine ten days ago as having passed the initial threshold.
Both Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim, Britain’s richest man, are believed to have put in initial bids at no more than £4.5billion for the club.
Those bids are way short of the £6bn valuation held by the Glazers, and who may yet decide not to sell at all.
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Last week, financiers Elliott Management, who are ready to fund any bidder but could forward cash to the Glazers themselves, made the trip to Manchester.
Three other hedge funds, Ares Management, Oaktree – which helped Chinese conglomerate Suning take over Inter Milan – and MSD Partners are also interested in becoming involved with financing a deal.
SunSport revealed last week that one option being considered by the Glazers was taking the club OFF the market and instead using outside capital to create a new company to hive off the club’s merchandising and digital commercial operation into a separate concern.
This would allow them to rake in money from potential opportunities from digital sales, video gaming and merchandise licensing that would be separate from what happens to the pitch.
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Sheikh Jassim, a member of the Qatari Royal family, is seeking a full buy-out of the club.
Ineos, by contrast, wants to purchase only the Glazers’ 69 per cent controlling stake.
Both the public bidders – it remains unclear if additional potential owners do exist although the invitation to Elliott suggests they might do – are concerned about the increasingly tight timetable for any deal to go through.
Experts say the due diligence phase, including evaluating the true value of United, the land surrounding Old Trafford which could site its overdue replacement, the club’s training ground and the estimated £500million extra owed to the Glazers could take as long as two months.
But with a deal completion deadline of May 31, ahead of the opening of the summer transfer window, the longer the process goes on the tougher it will be for any new owner to get things finished in time.
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