It is now three weeks since Jim Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim’s Qatari consortium were shown around Old Trafford.
While i understands there will be a third round of bidding to buy the club, with offers to be submitted by the end of the month, nothing has been fed back to the current bidders.
The fact that no developments or preferences have even been leaked to the press – something prevalent at United in recent years – has led insiders to believe the Glazer family are no closer to even deciding what path to take than they were in November, when they decided to invite new investment.
“It is all a bit weird,” one insider close to a proposed investor said. “We have heard nothing and we can’t even get any answers from Raine. In a bidding process you normally get encouragement, or some form of dialogue, from the selling side. Instead we are just getting silence.”
Raine, the US bank overseeing the potential sale of the club, have not been wowed by any interested party, which explains why potential investors have been given such a long time, almost six weeks on from the previous deadline, to launch what would need to be a world record offer for a sports team to prize United from the much-maligned Glazers’ grasps.
It is not just bidders being ignored. A source close to one of the investment funds offering finance to buyers, or even to the Glazers, likely just Joel and Avram Glazer, to enable them to stay put, is still in the dark, when you would expect encouragement from the sale side.
This is not how it was supposed to pan out. i has reported throughout the process that the Glazer family do not have to sell, and Avram and Joel are very keen to stay on in some capacity. Former AC Milan owners Elliott Investment Management are understood to be willing to offer them finance to do just that. That has not changed, even this far along the process.
However, a sale – should the Glazers get close to their £6bn valuation of the club – is still the preference. The issue is, Manchester-born Ratcliffe, despite being a multi-billionaire, would struggle to reach that figure and require financing, thus plunging the club into debt once more, while Sheikh Jassim will not overpay for the club despite the riches available to him, regardless of how much he wants it, sources have said.
The chaotic second round of bidding, with deadlines missed, did little to please Raine. The size of the bids did not bolster any relationships with any potential buyer either.
Some reports have suggested that seven bidders are still interested in United, but two insiders have told i that is “rubbish”. The fact the identities of so many investors interested in one of the biggest sports teams in the world are still secret is “preposterous”, one added.
One thing is for sure, this process is going to rumble on and on. Further updates are likely in the meantime, but any decision is still a long way off. Concern among fans, desperate to see the Glazers make their departure after a tumultuous 18 years at the helm, is that this could drag on into next season, with a crucial summer transfer window ahead.
Should no new owner be in place, and the club still be in limbo, the Glazers are hardly likely to sanction a spending spree.