DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Manchester United's American owners confirmed Tuesday they would consider putting the iconic Premier League club up for sale.
United said the Glazer family was exploring outside funding to enhance growth — a move that could pave the way to a potential buyout.
“As part of this process, the board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company," it said in a statement.
American investment bank the Raine Group has been enlisted to handle any sale or fresh investment.
Raine earlier this year handled the sale of Premier League club Chelsea to Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, successfully securing 2.5 billion pounds ($3 billion) plus a commitment of 1.75 billion pounds ($2 billion) of further investment.
While there is no guarantee the Glazers will cede complete control of United, the news will provide hope to the team’s supporters who have long-campaigned to drive out the American family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The late tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for 790 million pounds (then about $1.4 billion) amid a backlash from fans.
Unrest has continued in the following years and in recent times seen increasingly angry protests. A game against Liverpool had to be postponed last year following demonstrations at Old Trafford.
“The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” said co-chairmen Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer in the statement. “As we seek to continue building on the club’s history of success, the board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives. We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the club today and in the future."
They added that throughout the process "we will remain fully focused on serving the best interests of our fans, shareholders, and various stakeholders.”
United fans have been critical of the leveraged nature of the Glazers’ buyout that loaded debt onto the club, as well as a perceived lack of investment and the dividends taken out by the owners.
The club has endured a sustained period of decline since the retirement of Alex Ferguson in 2013 — failing to win a league title since then — and has had to watch as fierce rivals Manchester City and Liverpool have dominated English soccer.
United said among its plans for growth was the potential redevelopment of its Old Trafford stadium — something supporters have long called for.
It is likely Raine would use the Chelsea sale as gauge for any valuation — and hope to exceed that figure for one of the most popular sports teams in the world.
Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire owner of petrochemicals firm INEOS, this month dropped his previously held interest in buying United, despite being a longtime fan.
INEOS already owns French club Nice.
“Our position has developed since the summer and we are now focusing our efforts in Nice and raising our ambitions for the club to make them into a top tier club in France to compete with PSG,” INEOS said in a statement. “This would represent much better value for our investment than buying one of the top tier Premier league clubs.”
Liverpool — another storied Premier League club with American ownership — is exploring similar options. Fenway Sports Group said earlier this month that it was open to selling shares of the club it bought in 2010.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
James Robson, The Associated Press