The runners and riders to take over Manchester United should the Glazers decide to sell

Private equity

Outside America, Luxembourg-based CVC Capital Partners, which has an estimated £60 billion in assets, has shown in football, motorsport, rugby and, most recently cricket, that it is willing to spend big.

However, the direction of travel largely in plowing funds into competitions rather than clubs. This time last year the group was signing a $3.2 billion check to secure a 10.95 percent investment in La Liga.

Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University, says investment groups, rather than individuals, represent the most likely source of a fresh cash injection at United. But, he adds, they would be more likely to be American-based, where the potential returns are more clear.

“American investment groups believe that football is significantly undervalued,” says Maguire. “Groups such as the Boehly-led consortium are far more bullish about potential avenues such as streaming rights. If clubs start to get hold of streaming rights to themselves, then it’s worth keeping in mind that Manchester United have 1.1 billion fans around the world. “

United made around £200 million from TV money last season. “If Manchester United can sell to 10 percent of their fan base, that’s 100 million fans for a match and charge them five pounds apiece, that’s £500 million from a single match,” Maguire adds. “That’s Manchester United’s annual revenue. So that’s what the investment groups will see – there’s all of this opportunity. It’s not like the NFL and the NBA where, outside of the US, there is a limited market for those sports. Football is universal. We’ve got huge interest in Africa in the Premier League. We’ve got huge interest in Asia, Scandinavia, the list goes on.”

The Asian market

There is undoubtedly the cash available, particularly in China, but the appetite to get into European football is waning. Brokers have noticed a distinct shift in interest across east and south-east Asia in recent years.

Just six years ago Antonio Conte described China’s apparent rise as dangerous to football as Chelsea prepared to sell Oscar to Shanghai for £50 million.

Now, however, there are huge doubts about the Chinese Super League amid an apparent change in government policy. Reticence, it seems, is spreading to other nations. Industry experts believe the Malaysian ownership at Cardiff City and Chinese bosses at Wolverhampton Wanderers are open to selling up. Leicester City’s Thai regime appears stable, despite a lack of spending over the summer, but fresh investment at United would swim against the tide.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of interest in Asia anymore,” adds Maguire. “The Chinese government has made it fairly clear that it’s not part of their strategy or their philosophy. And we’ve only now realistically got Fosun involved in the Premier League. I think if somebody comes in with a decent offer for Wolves, I ‘d expect them to be sold.”

Sovereign wealth fund

United announced details of a “new strategic partnership” with Saudi Arabia in 2017, prompting much speculation that the relationship could develop into a significant share investment. However, Amanda Staveley’s subsequent involvement with the state’s sovereign wealth fund PIF led the Saudis to the door of Mike Ashley at Newcastle.

States like Saudi, looking to allegedly “sportswash” reputations by investing in football clubs, are dwindling. Qatar would be unlikely to swap PSG for United, and the UAE switch from Manchester City to United is unthinkable.

“There’s not that many of them left,” said Maguire. “Qatar has got PSG, Saudi has got Newcastle, UAE has got Manchester City – so unless the Sultan of Brunei or one of the other cash rich individuals decide to come in, it’s going to be unlikely. The players who want to play have already made their move into football.”


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