Feb 17 (Reuters) – Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, a son of Qatar’s former prime minister, on Friday launched a bid to buy Premier League soccer club Manchester United, whose American owners launched a formal sale process late last year.
A deal for United is expected to shatter records for the sale of a sports business. The club’s current majority owners, the Glazer family, are seeking a valuation as high as 7 billion pounds ($8.42 billion), Reuters has previously reported.
The record 20-time English champions, have over 650 million fans worldwide, according to market research firm Kantar.
Sheikh Jassim is the son of Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, who is one of the richest men in the Gulf state.
“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and wider infrastructure,” said a statement from a spokesperson representing Sheikh Jassim, who is the chairman of QIB, one of the top banks in Qatar.
However, Qatari state investors, who own a stake in French champions Paris Saint-Germain, could face challenges structuring a takeover of Manchester United, as rules forbid two clubs with the same owner taking part in the lucrative Champions League.
Sheikh Hamad is the owner of PSG and it is unclear how the Qatari bid will be structured.
Suitors have been asked to submit a bid amount and proof of funds after which Raine Group, the investment bank running the sale process, will draw up a shortlist.
The Qatari bid is one of multiple offers United have already received, according to sources. The initial deadline for bids expires on Friday.
British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, a life-long United fan and founder of chemicals firm INEOS, is another likely bidder, along with U.S. private equity firms, sources have told Reuters.
Ratcliffe has previously openly expressed his interest in buying the Old Trafford club.
On Thursday, the Daily Telegraph reported that Saudi Arabia has also submitted a bid for United.
A deal for Manchester United will likely exceed the biggest sports deal so far, which was the $5.2 billion – including debt and investments – paid for their London-based Premier League rivals Chelsea, sources told Reuters previously.
United are the fourth richest soccer club in the world, according to analysis by Deloitte. They are widely seen as one of the most prized assets in all of sport.
The Glazers bought United for 790 million pounds in 2005 as part of a highly-leveraged deal. The club has said it expects to generate up to 610 million pounds of revenues in its 2023 fiscal year and adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of up to 140 million pounds.
United’s Premier League rivals Liverpool have also said they are exploring a sale, while Tottenham Hotspur are expected to receive a bid worth $3.75 billion from Iranian-American billionaire Jahm Najafi, Reuters has reported.
($1 = 0.8309 pounds)
(Reporting by Anirban Sen in New York; additional reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk; Editing by Ken Ferris)