15 Oct Source: Ratcliffe set to buy 25% stake in Man Utd
British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is close to acquiring a significant stake in Manchester United after being “more savvy in his deal execution” than rival bidder Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, a source with knowledge of the process has told ESPN.
Sheikh Jassim, a Qatari billionaire, withdrew his interest in buying United on Saturday after failing to negotiate a full takeover of the club from their American owners, the Glazer family.
Sheikh Jassim’s exit from the race to buy the 20-time English champions has paved the way for Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals company INEOS, to seal a deal to acquire a 25% shareholding from the Glazers, who own 69% of the club. The remaining shares are owned by smaller investors on the New York Stock Exchange.
The agreement, which could be signed off as early as this week, would ensure that the Glazers, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL franchise, retain a majority stake. It is likely to antagonise a large section of United supporters who were eager for the family commit to a full sale.
However, sources have told ESPN that the Ratcliffe share purchase would be the first step in a proposal to eventually take full control of the club.
Sources have also said that Ratcliffe will have a say in football matters, raising the prospect that the club could take a different direction to that set by the Glazers in recent seasons.
While Sheikh Jassim’s bid was initially regarded as the most likely to succeed at the beginning of the process due to the funds at his disposal, sources have told ESPN that Ratcliffe has structured his bid in a way that suits the Glazers and enables brothers Joel and Avram, United’s co-chairmen, to remain involved.
Ratcliffe’s deal would also satisfy the desire of the four other Glazer siblings — Bryan, Kevin, Edward and Darcie — to reduce their stake in the club.