Nov. 22 — Manchester United said it is starting a process to explore strategic alternatives, including a new investment or a possible sale, 17 years after the American Glazer family bought the English Premier League soccer club.
The Glazer family is working with financial advisers on the process, which could lead to a partial sale of the Old Trafford club or investment, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment, the club said in a statement.
Manchester United fans are clamoring for a change of ownership and the Glazers have come under heavy criticism as the club have gone five years without a trophy. The last silverware they won was the Europa League and League Cup in 2017.
“As we seek to continue to build on the club’s history of success, the board has approved a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives,” Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, United’s executive co-chairmen and directors, said in the statement.
“We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and into the future,” the statement read.
In August, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe expressed interest in buying United, Reuters reported. At the time, Elon Musk had also joked about planning the club’s purchase.
Wealthy Asian tycoons, especially those from China, have been buying European teams in recent years, including the Premier League, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Italy’s Inter Milan.
But soccer clubs have since been viewed as unfavorable assets by China, and any major overseas purchase would seem unlikely at this time, said Mark Dreyer, author of “Sporting Superpower,” a book on China’s sporting ambitions, with headquarters in Beijing.
“It is almost impossible to see how any entity associated with China could justify a purchase of this size in the current climate,” he said. With China just now dealing with the realities of COVID-19, which makes the whole economic environment that much more uncertain, no state agency would approve this kind of deal.”
The owners are under pressure with United sitting fifth in the Premier League halfway through the season, which has been interrupted by the ongoing Qatar World Cup.
Shares in Manchester United jumped as much as 20% after Sky News first reported the sale process, giving the club a market capitalization of $2.6 billion.
The company was valued at $2.5 billion at the close of U.S. trading on Tuesday. At its peak as a public company, it had a market capitalization of $4.3 billion in 2018.
Also on Tuesday, the club said star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will leave with immediate effect, marking a bitter end to the Portuguese captain’s second spell at Old Trafford after he said he felt betrayed by the club.
The Glazers bought the club for £790 million ($939.07 million) in 2005 in a highly leveraged deal which has been criticized for loading the club with debt.
United has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2012, when the Glazers sold a 10% stake through the listing and have since sold more shares.