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Atlantic a gulf as Tampa Bay and Manchester remember Glazer

Reuters

(Reuters) - Malcolm Glazer, the self-made American billionaire who died aged 85 on Wednesday, enjoyed sporting success as an owner on both sides of the Atlantic but will be remembered very differently in Tampa Bay and Manchester.

In Florida, he was the man who shelled out a then record $192 million in 1995 to buy one of the NFL's least successful franchises and turned them into Super Bowl winners eight years later.

Under his ownership, Manchester United enjoyed much more success - once European and five times English soccer champions - but the manner of his 2005 takeover made him a divisive figure at a club he never visited.

His death was announced by the Buccaneers, who led a outpouring of tributes from around the NFL for a man they described as "a pioneering thinker".

"A dynamic business leader, Glazer helped mold the Buccaneers into a model franchise and one respected league-wide," read a statement on www.buccaneers.com.

"Glazer infused his team and employees with the determination and dedication to be the best in the NFL.

"Glazer's commitment to building a championship organization has provided the foundation for continued success, on and off the field.

"Mr. Glazer's long established estate succession plan has assured the Buccaneers will remain with the Glazer family for generations to come."

The flags at the team headquarters were flown at half mast after the news broke and former Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who led the team to the Super Bowl triumph, also paid tribute.

"He was a friend and a trailblazer," Gruden said. "I'll miss him and I thank him for believing in me. My condolences to the Glazer family and to the Bucs organization."

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp, cornerstone of the defense that played a major part in the Super Bowl XXXVII success, tweeted: "One time for my owner & great man #RipBoss."

Manchester United later responded to the news with their own statement.

"The thoughts of everyone at Manchester United are with the Glazer family tonight following the news that Malcolm Glazer has passed away," it read.

It is unlikely, however, that Glazer will be mourned by many fans of one of the best known and supported clubs in the world.

A vocal group of United fans, whose motto is "Love United, Hate Glazer", has never forgiven the family for loading the club with debt in a 790 million pound takeover in 2005.

They argue that the cost of paying interest on that debt has made it harder for the club to compete with the best in European soccer and forced up ticket prices.

That the success on the field only ended with the retirement of manager Alex Ferguson last year failed to soften the stance of many disgruntled fans, including those who set a grassroots team, FC United, in protest at the Glazer takeover.

"The Glazer's ownership of Manchester United is a product of the lack of regulation that we have in the game," Andy Walsh, general manager of the club, told the Manchester Evening News.

"Malcolm Glazer took advantage of that and his passing does not change that fact. The Glazer family still own Manchester United Football Club. The takeover of Manchester United caused a lot of pain in this city."

Glazer's death looks unlikely to alter that situation as he had been unwell for some time and ownership of the soccer club had already passed to his six children, with sons Avram and Joel playing the lead role as co-chairmen of the club.

"Malcolm Glazer had many charitable interests at home in Florida. He was also a family man, and his passing will be mourned," prominent United fan Jim White wrote in London's Daily Telegraph.

"But he was an owner who should never have been allowed into English football.

"He was not a fan. He had never thrilled to the genius of George Best, or leapt out of his seat at a Ryan Giggs run. Not once did he even visit the place.

"What attracted him to the most profitable football business in England was straightforward: he was in it for the money."

(Writing by Nick Mulvenney, additional reporting by Keith Weir and Frank Pingue, editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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