The Manchester United acquisition process has been dragging on for some time now. Ever since fans entered Old Trafford in the wake of the Super League announcements, the Glazer family has been under heightened pressure to sale. This conversation took a turn when the American businessmen decided to look for new investors back in November 2022, without necessarily stating that they would be selling their shares.
This has opened a bidding war between several suitors. More than 6 months down the line, two main bids have come out as favourites: Jim Ratcliffe, owner of INEOS group and by extension OGC Nice; and Qatari banker, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani.
Ratcliffe, a British billionaire, born in the Manchester area, has stated he wants to purchase a large part of the shares held by the Glazers, who do not own the entirety of the club, and therefore leaving Manchester United with their debts as well as a possibility of seeing the Glazers stay involved at the club. A situation which some supporters would like to avoid at all costs.
On the other hand, Sheikh Jassim is the second son of Qatar’s former prime minister is and largely involved in banking, being the chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank as well as a member of the board of Credit Suisse. His bid would reportedly involve taking over 100% of the club, as well as wiping the club’s debts.
Sheikh Jassim, as well as his Nine Two Foundation, have been broadly reported as being independent from the Qatari state. However, reports from The Athletic have shown that this may not be as evident as initially thought. Reports state that Paris Saint-Germain president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi has been involved in mediating talks between Manchester United and his fellow Qatari investor.
According to The Athletic, his involvement in the takeover is significant. While Sheikh Jassim wanted to lower the price the Glazers were valuing the club at, set at $8bn, Nasser Al-Khelaifi was contacted by the club in order to convince Jassim to increase his bid. The PSG president met the Glazers as well as Raine Group, responsible for handling the sale of the club on behalf of the American family.
At a press conference in the build-up to the Champions League final, Al Khelaifi has denied being a part of the negotiations, explaining that he is regularly asked for his opinion on matters of football investment. A L’Équipe source indicates that the PSG president was indeed only asked for his view by Sheikh Jassim, but did not involve himself in negotiations.
As seen with the Newcastle takeover, the full picture of these takeovers, particularly when involving potential state ownerships, can take a while to reveal itself. It was only a year later that The Athletic revealed how the British government helped the Saudi takeover of the Magpies in November 2021, months after talks had initiated for a takeover. There is little doubt that a Qatari takeover of such a football institution will involve more than just financial gain, with a political element undoubtedly taking prominence in weeks and months to come. United, from the fans to the owners, will hope to see the end of the tunnel sooner rather than later.