Potential buyers of Manchester United crunching the numbers

Feb 16, 2023, 5:04 AM | Updated: 5:07 am

A corner flag showing the logo of Manchester United is seen ahead of the English FA Cup 4th round s...

A corner flag showing the logo of Manchester United is seen ahead of the English FA Cup 4th round soccer match between Manchester United and Reading at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — After missing out on Chelsea last year, British businessman Martin Broughton knows how potential buyers will be feeling ahead of Friday’s deadline to submit bids for Manchester United.

The late nights spent crunching the numbers. Checking and double-checking that financial backers will make good on their promises.

Then that final bid emailed to the New York office of merchant bank Raine Group for approval.

“Just before you put in the formal bid you go through all of the debate,” Broughton, who has no intention of making a bid for United, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “How much leeway do we leave ourselves? We need to be on the shortlist. At the same time, we don’t want to be overpaying.”

Friday has been described as a soft deadline for initial offers before the process of determining the next owner of United gathers pace.

Broughton, a 75-year-old businessman who is the former chairman of British Airways and English soccer club Liverpool, went through all of that last year when heading a consortium that tried to buy Chelsea, with Raine also handling that sale. He made it to the final three, but eventually lost to Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, who paid $3 billion for the London club — a record for a soccer team.

United is estimated to command as much as double that figure after the American-owning Glazer family announced their willingness to sell last November.

So far Jim Ratcliffe, the British billionaire owner of petrochemicals giant INEOS, is the only confirmed bidder. But he is expected to face a challenge from Qatar, while other interested parties could become clearer after Friday.

“I don’t know how many bids there were for Chelsea, but there were at least half a dozen serious bids and that leaves four or five frustrated people,” Broughton said.

One of those was Ratcliffe, who, despite matching the bid of Boehly and Clearlake, missed the deadline set by Raine and wasn’t considered. He hasn’t repeated that mistake with United, declaring last month his intention to move for the club he has supported since childhood.

“Jim wants it. He’s prepared to pay properly for it. My surmise would be he’s willing to come up with a big number,” Broughton said. “Personally, I would guess he’d be at the 4-5 billion pounds ($4.8-6 billion) level.

“Jim, in the Chelsea case, made it clear at the outset that he wasn’t going to be interested at that price, it was too much. Wasn’t interested in discussing, joining in with other potential bidders and then made this very late bid.”

Broughton, a Chelsea supporter, pitched his attempt to buy out then-owner Roman Abramovich on the premise of a bid by the fans, for the fans. He sees some similarities in Ratcliffe’s pursuit of United.

“We didn’t see it as just a financial transaction. We saw it more as an opportunity for a greater level of fan involvement. Jim is a fan,” Broughton said, adding “somebody who is a fan, I think is preferable because they will think about what the fans want.”

Broughton said he wouldn’t be surprised if only a “very small number” of buyers come forward for United, given the estimated price and further investment required to redevelop the club’s iconic Old Trafford stadium.

A Qatari-backed bid is expected, while it is unknown if a rival offer from the Middle East will also emerge.

Broughton sees Qatar as a serious threat to Ratcliffe if a bid from the oil and gas rich country emerges.

“They might feel a knockout price (would do it and say) … We’ll give you 6 billion (pounds; $7.2 billion) as long as you sell it to us now and don’t carry on the auction.’ A take it or leave, something like that could easily settle it,” Broughton said.

Broughton has written a memoir of his career called “Whenever I Hear That Song.” In it, he recounts overseeing the sale of Liverpool to John Henry in 2010, as well as his attempts to buy Chelsea after Abramovich was forced to sell in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While he has sounded out potential investors in Liverpool, with Henry’s Fenway Sports Group open to selling the Merseyside club, he failed to drum up interest. He has not tried to put a bid together for United and is focusing on his passions, such as horse racing.

Proceeds from his book will go to the charity Retraining of Racehorses.

Another passion is Chelsea, and he has watched with interest as Boehly and Clearlake have spent more than $660 million on transfers since buying the club for $2.5 billion in May.

That money has so far failed to produce success on the field, with Chelsea in the middle of the Premier League standings and fighting to stay in the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 1-0 in the first leg of the round of 16 on Wednesday.

Broughton said he “very much” regrets missing out on Chelsea, but is encouraged by what he has seen from the new owners.

“My principle conclusion would be he (Boehly) has shown the commitment that he intends to make a success of it,” Broughton said. “If you compare that to the Glazers, for example, the Glazers have always operated like, ‘How can we make money out of this?’

“He is looking at it as, ‘I want this to be a success. I want people to see that my ownership of Chelsea has been good for the club.'”


James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson


More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

              An anti-Glazer family banner is held up by members of the crowd before the English League Cup semifinal second leg soccer match between Manchester United and Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. The Glazer family are the owners of Manchester United. (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)
              A corner flag showing the logo of Manchester United is seen ahead of the English FA Cup 4th round soccer match between Manchester United and Reading at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)


Lead water pipes pulled from underneath the street are seen in Newark, N.J., Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Pho...

Associated Press

Biden to require cities to replace harmful lead pipes within 10 years

The Biden administration has previously said it wants all of the nation's roughly 9 million lead pipes to be removed, and rapidly.

11 hours ago

Dignitaries, including U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, center, break ground on the new ...

Associated Press

Work resumes on $10B renewable energy transmission project in southwestern Arizona despite tribal objections

Federal land managers briefly halted work on the SunZia transmission line earlier this month after Native American tribes raised concerns.

12 hours ago

Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct. 28, 2...

Associated Press

Meta shuts down thousands of fake Facebook accounts that were primed to polarize voters ahead of 2024

Meta said it removed 4789 Facebook accounts in China that targeted the United States before next year’s election.

13 hours ago

A demonstrator in Tel Aviv holds a sign calling for a cease-fire in the Hamas-Israel war on Nov. 21...

Associated Press

Hamas releases a third group of hostages as part of truce, and says it will seek to extend the deal

The fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the first American was released under a four-day truce.

5 days ago

Men look over the site of a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, ...

Associated Press

New AP analysis of last month’s deadly Gaza hospital explosion rules out widely cited video

The Associated Press is publishing an updated visual analysis of the deadly Oct. 17 explosion at Gaza's Al-Ahli Hospital.

8 days ago

Peggy Simpson holds a photograph of law enforcement carrying Lee Harvey Oswald's gun through a hall...

Associated Press

JFK assassination remembered 60 years later by surviving witnesses to history, including AP reporter

Peggy Simpson is among the last surviving witnesses who are sharing their stories as the nation marks the 60th anniversary.

9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Desert Institute for Spine Care

Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) wants to help Valley residents address back, neck issues through awake spine surgery

As the weather begins to change, those with back issues can no longer rely on the dry heat to aid their backs. That's where DISC comes in.



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

Potential buyers of Manchester United crunching the numbers