Controversial Qatari bid for Manchester United failed to provide financial guarantees

The controversial Qatari bid to buy Manchester United failed to provide proof of funds throughout the drawn-out sales process and never had a bid that was above $5bn. The facts, laid out in the United States Securities and Exchange Commission filing released on Wednesday, raise questions about the nature of the offer as well as much of the public relations around it.

The process is close to conclusion with Sir Jim Ratcliffe buying a minority stake, although the filing makes clear he had four proposals rejected as he attempted ways to purchase a majority. The British billionaire eventually settled on his current successful structure in July 2023. Raine, the group managing the bids, were paid $31.5m by the club and were contacted by over 170 potential bidders. Only 26 of those entered into non-disclosure agreements, with eight eventually making it through to the second round, and that finally narrowed down to two.

Although there had long been briefings and leaks that the Sheikh Jassim-fronted bid was on the brink of victory - with that reaching a peak in June 2023 - it has now become apparent that they were never even close to an offer that would have been acceptable. The final bid would not have been legally acceptable.

With “Bidder A” the Sheikh Jassim bid, the filing states: “At the direction of the board representatives, Raine indicated to Bidder A that it needed to provide details of its intended financing sources in connection with its acquisition proposal and that its acquisition proposal did not provide the shareholders with sufficient value... Bidder A’s proposal contemplated the acquisition of all Ordinary Shares at a price of $25.00 per Ordinary Share and the proposal did not include customary financing commitment letters.”According to those with knowledge of the process, the acceptance of any bid which offered different numbers for A and B shares would have led to the suitor and the club being immediately sued.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is coming in as minority owner at Manchester United (Simon Peach/PA) (PA Wire)
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is coming in as minority owner at Manchester United (Simon Peach/PA) (PA Wire)

The filings nevertheless make clear how difficult the Glazers were to deal with, as they were unwilling to accept full sale of their B shares and insisted on parity of price between A and B shares.

“Representatives of Manchester United continued to inform Bidder A that the Board of Directors was not prepared to move forward with a transaction whereby the holders of Class A Shares received less per share consideration than the holders of Class B Shares and that the Board of Directors would require sufficient evidence of the financing and customary financing commitment papers.”It is from that perspective that Ratcliffe’s negotiation of sporting control, two board seats and a route to full ownership is seen as a significant success.

Of the 26 parties who signed non-disclosure agreements, 10 expressed initial and formal interest, seven proposed minority investment. As late as May 2023, suitors were informed that the “primary focus was currently on negotiating a full sale of Manchester United”.

There have long been suggestions that the Glazers were split on this, and that Avram and Joel Glazer were insistent on staying on in some capacity.