Man United Shares Drop as Investors Weigh Glazers Staying

The stock of publicly traded Manchester United fell 9.5% Thursday following an unconfirmed report in the U.K. tabloid, The Sun, that the Glazer family prefers Jim Ratcliffe’s bid for the Premier League club.

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani had proposed buying 100% of the club in a debt-free transaction, but the bid from INEOS founder Jim Ratcliffe, who is the U.K.’s richest person, would be for roughly half the club and allow United’s co-chairmen, Joel and Avram Glazer, to retain minority ownership roles, while their four siblings cash out in the deal.

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Ratcliffe presumably would not buy out public shareholders under this deal structure. The stock closed Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange at $18.38, resulting in an enterprise value of $3.9 billion, including net debt, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. Last week, Sportico valued United at $5.95 billion, placing it atop our ranking of the 50 most valuable soccer clubs. That valuation would imply a stock price of $31.

United shares more than doubled after the Glazers hired Raine Group in November to “consider all strategic alternatives” for the team, but they are now off 33% since hitting an intraday high of $27.34 in February. Last month, Raine requested a third round of bids.

In the fourth quarter, Chicago-based Ariel Investments sold nearly 3 million shares, or 26% of its stake, in Man United, according to SEC filings. Ariel had been United’s largest institutional holder at the end of September, with 21% of the common shares outstanding. It paid between $12 and $14 for most of its stake, and shares topped $23 in December. Lindsell Train is now the biggest.

United currently sits in fourth place in the EPL standings, one point ahead of Liverpool.

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