The market turmoil caused by the announcement that Manchester United will be sold has allowed a group of American investors to make a tidy profit on their shares, but they have no connection to the Glazer family, who own the club.
Ariel Investments sold nearly three million Manchester United shares in the last quarter of 2022, according to a statement released by the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.
The project does not indicate the price or the exact timing of this sale, but the shares of the club listed on the New York Stock Exchange said that the Glazers “have begun the process of exploring strategic alternatives … including a new investment in the club, a sale, or other transactions involving the company.”
This happened on November 22, when the club’s share price was around $13 (£10.74). By the end of trading that day, the price of each share was almost $15, and the next day it exceeded $20. Manchester United shares closed 2022 at $23 (£19.00), more than double their price last summer when they peaked at $10.41.
News that the Glazers are actively seeking bids for the club, which they controversially bought in 2005, also boosted the number of shares traded on a daily basis.
On November 21, a quarter of a million shares of “Manchester United” were exchanged. But the prospect of the Glazers’ 17-year reign at Old Trafford coming to an end jumped to six million shares on November 22 and 35 million on November 25, the day after the market closed for Thanksgiving.
It has now emerged that the majority of those shares were once owned by Chicago-based investment firm Ariel Investments, which was Manchester United’s largest single shareholder before the sale. The award goes back to London-based company Lindsell Train.
By selling just over a quarter of the more than 11 million Manchester United shares he owned at the end of September, Ariel made a tidy profit on the $100 million he spent on United shares in 2021 when the share price hits $15. 16 ranges.
In fact, Ariel’s position as United’s biggest institutional investor is linked to Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to the club in 2021 – another development that has boosted the club’s share price – and the Portuguese star’s contract was terminated by United on the day the club was actually set up. for sale.
But these Ariel CEOs John Rodgers and Melody Hobson don’t know if Ronaldo’s fans are voting with their feet or what we don’t about United’s potential sale. They seem to have seen the current good health of the share price as an opportunity to take an easy profit.
Neither Ariel nor Manchester United responded to requests for comment.
As for the process the Glazers started in November, there is nothing to report. The Glazers have appointed New York-headquartered merchant bank Rein to oversee the search. Raine was appointed to the position last year following his successful bid for Chelsea in a competitive bid.
But the United process was always going to be a much slower burn than that drama, as Chelsea had to sell quickly after their former boss Roman Abramovich was placed on the British and European sanctions list following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is the only person or group to publicly announce an interest in buying Manchester United in recent months, but he has made it clear that he disagrees with the Glazers’ view that England’s most successful club is worth double the price. A consortium led by Todd Boehly paid £2.5 billion for Chelsea.
Apart from Ratcliffe, there has been some speculation about bids from the Middle East. For example, earlier this week it was revealed that Qatar Sports Investments, the sovereign wealth fund that owns Paris Saint-Germain, is seeking a minority stake in the Premier League club. QSI have already held preliminary talks with Tottenham Hotspur but are not yet understood to have held talks with Reign or Manchester United.
If not them, or someone like them, most industry watchers believe the only buyers are another wealthy American family like the Glazers or an American private equity syndicate like Chelsea’s Boehly Group.
However, with Everton, Liverpool and, presumably, Spurs now in the market – not to mention dozens of clubs across Europe – and the global economy in flux, it’s entirely possible that the Glazers will find no one to match their valuation of United. .
And the six children of Malcolm Glazer, who bought United in 2005 for £790 million, control the club through their own Class B shares. These golden tickets carry 10 times more Class A voting rights than those held by Ariel, Lindsell Train and all other shareholders.
The family’s majority stake in United means they have received the lion’s share of the £155m in dividends the club has paid since 2015, but the Glazers announced last month they were suspending them.
This could certainly be another factor in Ariel’s decision to reduce his stake in the club, but the fact that he still owns eight million United shares shows that he is on board with Erik ten Haag’s bid to get United back on track, and others agree that premium sports franchises are great long-term investments. idea.
Manchester United’s share price is below $23 (£19) at the time of writing, giving the company a market capitalization – the total value of all its shares – of $3.7bn (£3bn) and an enterprise value – plus equity. debt is $4.6 billion (£3.8 billion).
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