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Jim Ratcliffe’s pursuit of Manchester United poised to go to extra time

Glazer family’s sale of the football club has proven a protracted process

It is now more than 18 years since the late Malcolm Glazer and his family completed their much-protested takeover of Manchester United. Having confirmed last November that they were open to offers, the Glazer family’s sale of the club seems to be dragging on almost as long.

Following the recent exit of Sheikh Jassim, the former prime minister of Qatar, from the process, the man in closest striking distance of the goal is billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, one of the richest people in Britain.

How rich? Well, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index places his wealth at $16.8 billion (€15.9 billion), while the Sunday Times rich list estimates he is worth £29.7 billion (€34 billion). Either way, it’s a lot.

Sheikh Jassim had been pursuing a full takeover of the club before the seesawing negotiations led to his withdrawal. Chemicals mogul Ratcliffe is seeking – initially, at least – just a 25 per cent stake for £1.35 billion (€1.55 billion), for which he also wants an active say in the club’s football operations.

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The founder and owner of chemicals giant Ineos was born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, and grew up supporting United, though that didn’t stop him tabling a late, failed bid to buy Chelsea last year.

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Bloomberg reported earlier this week that Ineos assured its creditors that the funds to pay for the United stake wouldn’t come from the company, but from Ratcliffe’s personal wealth, with Ineos shareholders Andy Currie and John Reece also tipped to participate.

Although the Premier League team’s fortunes on the pitch have been subdued for an extended period now, Manchester United is still ranked a creditable fourth – behind Manchester City, Real Madrid and Liverpool – in Deloitte’s Football Money League, which analyses clubs based on their revenues. And as evidenced by media coverage of the death of Bobby Charlton last Saturday, the club’s heritage continues to contribute significantly to its value.

But with the Glazers apparently baulking at the Qatari bid and Ratcliffe’s offer conspicuously not voted upon at a key board meeting last week, it seems as if the ownership transfer window will remain open for some time yet.