The Manchester United takeover process is set to move into the next phase in the next fortnight with a series of meetings planned as the Glazers ponder minority bids for the club.
i understands that teams of financial and legal advisors for Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos group, Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and a third group will meet officials from Manchester United and the Raine Group overseeing the takeover process before the end of the month.
But there is a nagging worry that no group has yet been granted exclusivity, which would enable detailed due diligence over the potential cost of stadium and training ground expansions and access to a wide spread of the club’s financial information.
The reason? Those close to the process believe the Glazer family remain “undecided” about whether a full sale of the club is their desired outcome and are rigorously investigating the intentions of bidders who have proposed buying a minority stake in the club.
The purpose of that is two-fold: firstly because the family may yet opt to retain majority control over the Red Devils.
But almost as importantly there would be a significant premium attached to buying a minority stake and drawing a high bid for a smaller slice of the club will strengthen their hand when it comes to asking those bidding for full control to up their offers.
Against that backdrop, i can reveal that the resolve of the two publicly revealed bidders remains to complete a deal before the end of the season. Ratcliffe and Al Thani have not been deterred by the reticence to grant exclusivity and both are focused on winning the bid.
“It’s taken a long time for very little to happen,” a source familiar with the process admitted to i. There is now a clear determination to move things on quickly, with the hope that the meetings this month will lead to greater clarity around the Glazers’ intentions.
Manchester United’s form, notwithstanding the bizarre 7-0 defeat at Anfield, has not dropped off but with a summer transfer window to plan for a resolution before the end of the season would be favourable.
Sources close to the process believe that if exclusivity is granted to one bidder, the takeover could be completed within a month. Raine’s deadline of the end of April is, in the words of one source, “doable, but it’s going to be tight based on the current rate of progress”.
The Qatari offer is for 100 per cent of the club and comes with a promise to invest in both the men’s and women’s teams, the training ground and the stadium.
Al Thani has declined other offers to buy high-profile football clubs in the past. His determination to buy the Red Devils is partly because it is the team he supports but also because he can see potential in the returning the club – in his words – “to its former glories”.
Despite the obvious desire to complete the purchase – he is bidding for the club through his Nine Two Foundation which is named after the club’s Class of ’92 – Al Thani is determined not to overpay. Ratcliffe is the same, once famously saying Ineos would never be “the dumb money”.
All of that swings the focus back on the Glazers, who are the ultimate kingmakers in this elongated process.