Exclusive: Manchester United takeover offers imminent from Middle … – The Telegraph

Club are expected to invite bids by mid-February with Sir Jim Ratcliffe still monitoring the situation
Manchester United have received serious takeover interest from the Middle East, Asia and America and are poised to invite formal bids from them by a mid-February deadline, Telegraph Sport can reveal.
British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also continuing to monitor the situation closely and, while an offer from him is still expected, formal talks are yet to begin.
Other candidates who expressed appetite to buy Chelsea last year are known to have also returned with approaches, according to extensive inquiries by Telegraph Sport.
Over the coming weeks, potential investors from around the world will go public with their attempts to buy the sporting giant. The clock is now ticking on a deal, as it is understood senior figures will issue a mid-February invite for formal offers.
The timescale allows for the club to stick with its instructions to have a deal completed before the end of the current season. With that in mind, different prices depending on Champions League qualification could be factored in.
It is unclear yet whether the Glazers want to completely end their hugely controversial 18-year ownership. United are expected to inform interested parties in the coming days that formal bids will be taken next month for total buyouts as well as minority stakes.
There appears still to be flexibility around the mid-February deadline, but the club aims to complete a deal within the first quarter or by the end of April.
Ministers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have previously played down the prospect of a state-backed buyout, given competing interests at Newcastle United and Paris Saint Germain. However, other well-placed sources have warned against ruling out the two nations. Much of the frenzy to buy Chelsea was in America last spring, and, while there is again keen appetite in the US, there have been conversations with a host of wealthy Arabic investors as well as interest from Asia.
Co-owner Avram Glazer flew to the World Cup in Doha last month and held a number of informal meetings. However, New York-based investment bank the Raine Group, which declined to comment when contacted by Telegraph Sport, remains the first port of call for interested parties.
Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest men, is thought to be ready to table a figure which would be dependent on the club’s qualification for the Champions League this May.
But, having swooped late with a bid during the Chelsea takeover saga last year, he is again leaving it late to enter any direct talks with United. Several senior figures at Ineos declined to comment but insiders claim that Ratcliffe is serious about revisiting a bid. The petrochemicals giant is known to have ruled itself out of an investment at Inter Milan in recent weeks.
At United, a price between £6 billion and £8 billion has been touted, but insiders remain tight-lipped about the Glazers’ ballpark price. Ratcliffe is known to be wary about overpaying. He had failed in his late bid to buy Chelsea over the summer largely because he walked away from talks because he initially thought the club was being too greedy, Telegraph Sport understands.
Ratcliffe has supported United since boyhood and attended the 1999 Champions League final.
Taking over the Old Trafford club would not necessarily mean Ineos would have to sell French club OGC Nice. However, they would not be allowed to play against each other in Europe under Uefa rules. Ineos has invested in F1 and cycling, while their football clubs also include Swiss club Lausanne.
United have spent more than £1.1 billion servicing the Glazers’ leveraged takeover in 2005 while the Americans have pocketed around £465 million in share sales and the club’s gross debt still stands at an eye-watering £680 million.
Richard Arnold, the Manchester United chief executive, said recently that any new investors in the club will be urged to work closely with fans and expressed hope that a potential full or partial sale would prove a “positive” step forward.
“We will be advising any prospective new investors on the value of the fan engagement processes we have built in recent years, and recommending that they continue to be strengthened,” Arnold told United’s latest fans’ forum meeting last month.
United supporters’ groups from across the world signed an open letter to potential bidders last month urging any new owners to unravel years of Glazer family failures.

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