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Analysis:Manchester United's owners see escape hatch in soccer club deal boom

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channelnewsasia.com

LONDON/NEW YORK : A sale of Manchester United Plc could provide the soccer club's controlling shareholders, the Glazer family, a lucrative exit from an investment that has languished over the past decade and drawn the ire of millions of soccer fans.Deals for European football clubs this year, beginning with the sanctions-driven sale of Chelsea Football Club by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in May, have fetched top dollar.It's these rich valuations that have motivated the Glazers to formally put Manchester United up for sale, according to two people familiar with the matter.The family, which made its fortune in real estate, retail and healthcare and also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought the team for 790 million pounds ($939.07 million) in 2005.

A sale at valuations commensurate with deals like Chelsea would yield a profit of several billion dollars, the sources said.The sources, however, warned that the Glazers, who own two-thirds of Manchester United through dual-class shares, may ultimately choose to sell only a minority stake or decide against any transaction.A Manchester United spokesperson declined to comment.The Glazers' decision to launch a formal sale process now ends years of the family's resistance to pressure from fans to divest.Many of the club's supporters have complained that the Glazers' debt-laden buyout of the team starved it of funds and that the owners needed to spend more to attract and retain talent and win trophies.

Those complaints were aired again this month by superstar player Cristiano Ronaldo, who parted ways with Manchester United for the second time."The Glazers, they don't care about the club or professional sport," Ronaldo said in an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV on Nov.

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