The secretive Glazer family, owners of Manchester United, came as close as they dare to revealing their innermost thoughts about one of football’s most prestigious clubs.
Their long-held plans to list the club, first in Hong Kong, then Singapore, finally found a resting-place after flotation papers were filed at the New York Stock Exchange.
The US may be the Glazers’ domicile, but it is not exactly a perfect bedfellow for football. Asia is far more in thrall to the game. Some financial advisers counselled against a listing, but others were prepared to underwrite it.
Those fans who have agitated against the Glazers ever since their £790m leveraged buy-out in 2005 should not expect this flotation to mark the beginning of the end of the family’s tenure of ownership.
The size of the placement is not yet known. What is clearer is that the Glazers have no intention of relinquishing control, retaining a class of shares where the voting power lies. They are also positioning the company in the Cayman Islands, and classifying it an “emerging growth company” to take advantage of rules on financial disclosure.
Fans largely ignored the prospectus’ extensive chapters on the club’s commercial success. Many focused on one particular line – the proceeds of the float will go towards paying off gross debts, which stand at £423m.
That position has strained the club’s ability to compete in the transfer market. If the flotation loosens the purse strings of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps that will bring short-term content to the fans. Not that they will ever forgive the Glazers.
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