Sky News understands the giant American financial investor Carlyle is among a handful of parties which have tabled proposals for a minority investment in Manchester United; Carlyle has assets of more than £298bn and is believed to be “serious” in its interest in United
By Mark Kleinmann – Sky News City editor
The giant American financial investor Carlyle is in talks about a major investment in Manchester United as the auction of the Premier League side nears its concluding stages.
Sky News has learnt that Carlyle is among a handful of parties which have pitched proposals to acquire a minority stake in the Old Trafford outfit.
Carlyle, which has assets of more than $370bn (£298bn) under management, ranks among the world’s largest private equity firms.
In the UK, it has owned companies including the RAC breakdown recovery service, and Addison Lee, the taxi-hire group.
One source close to the situation said this weekend that Carlyle’s interest in Manchester United was “serious”, adding that it had been engaged in discussions for some time.
Nevertheless, key details of Carlyle’s proposal, including the amount of capital it would look to deploy and the structure of a deal, have yet to be finalised.
Carlyle declined to comment.
Deadline set for final proposals
Carlyle’s interest has emerged a fortnight before a deadline set by Raine Group, the advisers handling the sale process, for final proposals to acquire or invest in Manchester United.
Sky News exclusively revealed last November the Glazer family’s plan to explore a strategic review of the club its members have controlled since 2005, kicking off a five-month battle to buy it.
Since then, dozens of parties have been rumoured or reported to have shown an interest, although few have emerged as genuinely credible bidders.
A bid deadline of April 28 has been set by The Raine Group, the merchant bank handling the sale, and which oversaw last year’s £2.5bn takeover of Chelsea by a consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital.
Who’s in contention?
The two parties which remain in contention to buy out the Glazers altogether are Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, a Qatari businessman who chairs the Gulf state’s Qatar Islamic Bank; and Ineos Sports, part of the petrochemicals group owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Both have reportedly tabled offers below a £6bn figure, which has been speculatively touted as the Glazers’ asking price for the club they bought in 2005 for less than £800m.
In addition, several financial investors have shown interest in becoming minority shareholders or providing some form of structured finance to the club to allow it to revamp the ageing infrastructure of its Old Trafford home and Carrington training ground.
Those which have lodged minority investment proposals with Raine include Elliott Management, the American hedge fund which until recently owned AC Milan; Ares Management Corporation, a US-based alternative investment group; and Sixth Street, which recently bought a 25% stake in the long-term La Liga broadcasting rights to FC Barcelona.
At a valuation of £5bn – below the Glazers’ rumoured asking price – a sale of Manchester United would become the biggest sports club deal in history.
It would eclipse even the $6bn (£4.8bn) takeover of the Washington Commanders NFL team agreed this week by Josh Harris, an American private equity billionaire.
Part of the lure of such a valuation resides in potential future control of the club’s lucrative broadcast rights, according to bankers, alongside a belief that arguably the world’s most famous sports brand can be commercially exploited more effectively.
On Friday, New York-listed shares in Manchester United closed down nearly 5% at $22.02, giving the club a market valuation of close to $3.8bn (£3.1bn).
Glazers told to sell ‘without further delay’
This week, Manchester United’s largest fans’ group, the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST), called for the conclusion of the auction “without further delay”.
“When it was announced in November that the Glazers were undertaking a ‘strategic review’ and inviting offers to buy the club, MUST welcomed the news and went on to urge the majority owners to move ahead with the process with speed, so that any period of uncertainty was as short as possible, it said in a statement.
“Nearly five months on, we read speculation that offers from prospective buyers remain below the Glazers valuation, and that a third round of offers will now be invited.
“With Erik ten Hag having made such great progress in his first season, and with the vital summer transfer window a matter of weeks away, the news of these delays and further prolonged uncertainty are of great concern.”
Man Utd’s remaining fixtures
Sunday: Nottingham Forest (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm, live on Sky Sports
Thursday: Sevilla (A) – Europa League, kick-off 8pm
April 22: Brighton (N) – FA Cup semi-final, kick-off 3pm
April 27: Tottenham (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8:15pm
April 30: Aston Villa (H) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm
May 4: Brighton (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm, live on Sky Sports
May 7: West Ham (A) – Premier League, kick-off 7pm
May 13: Wolves (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 20: Bournemouth (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Fulham (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
TBA: Chelsea (H) – Premier League