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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jamie Jackson and Andy Hunter

Sheikh Jassim and Ratcliffe prepared to be patient to buy Manchester United

Sir Jim Ratcliffe outside Old Trafford
Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s representatives are more confident the Glazers still intend to sell Manchester United. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe are prepared to play the long game in their respective wish to buy Manchester United, with the process now approaching 10 months since the Glazers served notice of the potential sale of the club.

While Sheikh Jassim’s representatives are now unsure if the American family still wishes to let go of the club, those acting for Ratcliffe are more confident they are intent on selling. Neither Sheikh Jassim, a Qatari banker, nor Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest people, have set a timeframe regarding a resolution.

The Mail on Sunday reported this month that the Glazers were holding out for a much higher bid, potentially as much as £10bn. The report said the Glazers would wait until 2025 to sell the club when increased television rights revenues and the expansion of the Club World Cup could make United more valuable.

There has been no official confirmation or denial of the Mail on Sunday story, which led to the steepest single-day fall in United’s share price. Shares in the club dropped by 18.2% on the Tuesday following the story, to $19.35 (£15.40), the biggest daily drop since they were listed on the New York stock exchange in 2012.

On 22 November last year the American family stated they were “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” for the club in a move that signalled their controversial and unpopular proprietorship, which began in 2005, could end.

Sheikh Jassim has made a series of bids for the club that culminated in the lodging of a fifth and final offer in June of no more than £6bn. Ratcliffe’s offer is to buy a little more than 50% of United and possibly keep one or more of the Glazers as minority owners. Each party is yet to hear from the Raine Group, the US bank which is handling any sale.

United have confirmed, meanwhile, that they have agreed a sponsorship deal with the US technology company Qualcomm, which will see its Snapdragon brand replace TeamViewer on the front of shirts from next season – a move some have interpreted as indicating an imminent takeover is unlikely. The club did not disclose the financial details of the deal but it is believed the contract is for three years and worth £60m a year.

United signed a five-year deal with the German tech firm TeamViewer in 2021 to be their principal shirt sponsor, replacing Chevrolet. However, United announced in December that they had reached a “mutually beneficial agreement” with TeamViewer giving the club the option of buying back the rights.

Everton’s potential takeover by 777 Partners is also in doubt, although the club has secured a £100m loan to help fund the construction of their new stadium from MSP Sports Capital.

MSP last month withdrew from negotiations to acquire a 25% stake in Everton, prompting the owner Farhad Moshiri to reopen talks with 777 Partners over a deal to buy the struggling Premier League club. MSP have, however, loaned £100m to Everton’s stadium development holding company. The loan will enable Everton to cover the next phase of construction costs at the Bramley Moore dock site and alleviate short-term financial pressures. The club then plans to complete the project with a new, consolidated funding package.

Whether Moshiri or 777 Partners will be in charge of Everton at that point remains to be seen. The two parties are in advanced talks over a takeover but there is uncertainty over whether 777, a Miami-based firm that majority owns five clubs, has the funds to buy out Moshiri and finalise the stadium project. As well as the £100m loan from MSP Sports Capital, Everton also have a loan facility with Cheshire-based Rights and Media Funding Limited that extended to £200m this year. Moshiri has invested over £750m in Everton since 2016 for little reward and is seeking to recoup much of that outlay.

The Premier League introduced a more stringent directors’ and owners’ test this summer and, as well as looking into 777’s finances, would have to consider a 2003 drugs charge against co-founder Josh Wander. Wander, who was elected to the board of the European Club Association last week as a representative of Standard Liege, pleaded no contest to the charge 20 years ago.

Old Trafford
Manchester United have confirmed a deal with Qualcomm for Snapdragon to become the front-of-shirt sponsor from next season. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images
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