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Manchester United are set for a bidding war after Sir Jim Ratcliffe confirmed his Ineos group have entered the running to buy the club. The British billionaire is the first to publically confirm his intentions to make an offer for the club as the Glazers look to sell up after 18 years of ownership.
United were first put on the market in November after the Glazer family announced that it was ‘commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives’ for the club. Options ranging from bringing ‘new investment into the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company’ were to be considered with interested parties invited to come forward. However, it is thought that a full sale is the most likely outcome.
Bids are expected from the Middle East, the United States and Asia but British businessman Ratcliffe is the first to officially confirm his interest. A spokesperson confirmed to the Times that “we have formally put ourselves into the process” in a statement on Tuesday.
Interested parties currently have to sign up in order to see confidential financial documents and complete their due diligence before a takeover. This process is expected to be on going over the coming weeks before formal bids start next month with the club potentially changing hands before the end of the season.
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A bidding war for the club is likely to ensue with the Glazers said to be holding out for at least £5billion. The figure is almost certain to dwarf the £4.25bn Todd Boehly and his Clearlake Capital Group spent to buy Chelsea last year in what would be a record for a British sports team.
Ratcliffe was among the interested parties to buy the Blues last year but left it too late before he was able to launch a bid. He also owns Ligue 1 Nice but it is United who are believed to be the apple of his eye, with the 70-year-old said to be a long-term supporter of the club.
Ineos are already investors in a host of sports teams including Mercedes F1, New Zealand Rugby and the Team Sky cycling team (later rebranded to become Team Ineos).
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It is thought the confirmation of Ratcliffe’s interest may encourage other parties to come forward. The sale is being overseen by the Raine banking group with co-founder Joe Ravitch holding informal talks with interested parties.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are among the obvious suitors although their potential takeovers are complicated by their ownership of PSG and Newcastle United respectively.
It remains to be seen who will be the next United owners but Ratcliffe’s announcement today is a huge development in one of the biggest sports deals of all-time.
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