Sheikh Jassim of Qatar Withdraws from Manchester United Purchase Process

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani has officially withdrawn from the Manchester United purchase process, according to sources at BBC Sport.

Sheikh Jassim had submitted a £5 billion bid for the club, but negotiations that took place this week have ultimately broken down.

This development comes after the Glazer family, who purchased Manchester United for £790 million back in 2005, announced in November 2022 that they were contemplating a sale.

Another prominent bidder in the mix was British businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group.

Sources inform BBC Sport that Ratcliffe is currently looking to strike a deal for a minority stake in the club, rumored to be around 25%.

Earlier this month, BBC Sport reported that Ratcliffe was considering the possibility of purchasing a minority stake in the club to help break the deadlock in the ownership situation.

The Glazer family’s announcement regarding their intention to consider the sale of Manchester United generated significant interest but led to only two concrete offers, one from Ineos and the other from Sheikh Jassim, both valued at approximately £5 billion.

Notably, Sheikh Jassim’s camp had consistently emphasized their intention to purchase the club outright.

During this period, Manchester United supporters have organized demonstrations both inside and outside Old Trafford against the Glazer family’s ownership.

Currently, the club is positioned at 10th place in the Premier League, having suffered four losses in their first eight matches. They also faced defeats in their first two Champions League fixtures.

Reportedly, Sheikh Jassim’s offer would have been an all-cash proposal that would have eliminated all existing debts. It would have further provided over £1.4 billion to fund new stadium projects, the development of state-of-the-art training facilities, player acquisitions, and community regeneration initiatives.

Data from March revealed that Manchester United’s debt stood at £969.6 million, stemming from a combination of gross debt, bank loans, and outstanding transfer fees with associated payments.

At present, no public comments have been made by any of the involved parties concerning this recent turn of events.

Furthermore, the Glazer family has remained silent since launching their ‘strategic review’ regarding Manchester United back in November, which they mentioned could potentially lead to a sale. Previously, this option was never explicitly mentioned, raising hopes among many fans who have long felt that the ownership since 2005 has been a limiting factor for the club.

Over the past few months, various conflicting rumors emerged, including claims that the entire process had been shelved, an assertion that sources have vehemently denied.

Just this week, Manchester United’s CEO, Richard Arnold, stated during a Fans Forum meeting, “All I can say at this moment is the work is ongoing.”

Typically, Manchester United would have already released their end-of-year financial results for 2023. However, as of now, no date has been confirmed for their release, with no official explanation provided for the delay.

Figures published in June showed that despite not participating in the Champions League last season, Manchester United was on track to achieve record revenues. This growth was attributed to robust matchday and commercial revenue, leading to a revision of their annual revenue forecast from £590 million – £610 million to a range of £630 million – £640 million, which would surpass their previous record of £627.1 million set in 2019.

Analysis – ‘Glazers Remain, Likely to Evoke Anger’

Given the protracted nature of this process and the contradictory reports surrounding it, nothing can be taken at face value.

However, if Sheikh Jassim’s withdrawal is indeed final, it means that, at least in the short term, the Glazer family will retain ownership of Manchester United.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has expressed a willingness to accept a minority stake as a preliminary step towards gaining a majority stake, which is ultimately his goal. There are complexities tied to Manchester United’s share structure that need to be resolved.

It is possible that, in the not-so-distant future, another party could enter the picture and make an offer that the Glazers would find acceptable.

For now, the Glazers continue to be in control. This decision is likely to be met with frustration from a significant portion of Manchester United’s fanbase, including former captain Gary Neville, who believe that the ownership is a major factor contributing to the club’s current struggles.

This week, when asked whether the Glazer family is aware of the majority view held by Manchester United fans, CEO Richard Arnold informed the Fans Forum that the club provides feedback transparently to the owners.

Evidently, the Glazers are resilient and content to maintain their ownership, despite the protests against them.

Simultaneously, Sheikh Jassim appears to have determined that the Glazers’ conditions for selling were not compatible with his desire to purchase the club in its entirety.

Two significant unknowns remain: whether an alternative Qatari bid for another Premier League club materializes and what valuation the Glazers have in mind for Manchester United that surpasses the offers they have received.

Numerous questions endure, while answers remain in scarce supply.