How Sir Jim Ratcliffe plans to secure long-term takeover of Manchester United

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe exploring a new way to launch Man Utd takeover
  • Sheikh Jassim's camp still confident of completing a deal
  • Glazer family wary of selling for anything below the club's value
Sir Jim Ratcliffe remains keen on buying Man Utd
Sir Jim Ratcliffe remains keen on buying Man Utd / Eric Alonso/GettyImages

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is exploring the option of buying a minority stake in Manchester United as the uncertainty over the club's ownership enters an 11th month.

90min understands Ratcliffe is looking to make a breakthrough in his bid to purchase the club from American owners the Glazer family, though the proposed offer would see the current incumbents remain as majority owners in the short-to-medium term.

Crucially, however, it's understood that this would serve as a first step to Ratcliffe taking full control of the club in the longer term.

It has been nearly a year since United's American owners, the Glazer family, who completed a leveraged buyout in 2005 under the leadership of late patriarch Malcolm Glazer, issued a statement announcing their willingness to consider “strategic alternatives” – including partial and full takeovers.

For almost as long, Ratcliffe, through his INEOS company, and Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, a Qatari banker and member of the country’s royal family, have been the leading bidders.

But offers from neither party have yet been accepted by the Glazers. Sheikh Jassim has put £5bn on the table, as well as offering to take on United’s debt to make his total package worth around £6bn.

The existing bid from Ratcliffe and INEOS technically values the club at a higher price as it is for a controlling stake with the option of the Glazers to remain minority owners - as such, his propsal was the one preferred by the current owners. 90min had previously learned from sources that Ratcliffe, a United fan originally hailing from Oldham, is prepared to do whatever it takes in order to succeed with a bid, even if that means the Glazers staying on.

So far, both proposed takeover bids have fallen short of the asking price in excess of £6bn and potentially up to £10bn. The Glazers are wary of selling United for anything below the club’s value and failure to command the desired asking price now could be a factor that drives them to keep hold as majority owners in the short and medium-term.

Avram Glazer, Joel Glazer
The Glazer family have controlled Man Utd since 2005 / Michael Regan/GettyImages

Sheikh Jassim’s camp remain confident of striking a deal for a full takeover, but sources have confirmed to 90min that Ratcliffe is now moving in different ways. INEOS have made a fresh approach to the Glazers to indicate their willingness to make an offer for up to 25% of the club.

It would bring Ratcliffe and INEOS on board formally and still leave the potential to become the majority owner further down the line as a natural successor to the Glazer family from within.

However, 90min also understands there are figures within the United hierarchy who are convinced that the Glazers will remain in charge of the club indefinitely.

Ownership of Manchester United has been the honour of a select few over the club’s storied history. The original Newton Heath team were funded by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, followed by becoming a limited company open to shareholding from fans.

John Henry Davies saved the club from extinction in 1902 and oversaw the name change to Manchester United, before James W. Gibson later stepped in do similar in 1931. The Gibson family retained ownership until board member Louis Edwards had acquired enough shares to take over in 1964, with control passing to his son Martin in 1980.

The club was floated on the stock market in 1991, which invited outside investment as the younger Edwards gradually reduced his stake over time, with Malcolm Glazer starting his family's eventual 2005 takeover by buying the first tranche of shares two years earlier.