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Man Utd fans plan buy out

Sun 31st Jan 2010 | Clubs Ownership

Keith Harris, the prominent football financier who brokered the sales of Chelsea to Roman Abramovich and Aston Villa to Randy Lerner, has been approached by a group of wealthy Manchester United fans wanting to “explore” the possibility of making an offer to buy the club from the Glazer family according to The Sunday Times.

Harris stopped short of claiming a bidding consortium has been formed and it is understood that no offer is imminent from any group linked to Harris, or from the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, which is co-ordinating an anti-Glazer movement angered by club debts of more than £700m. “There’s a mood for change,” said one source. “But there’s nothing in place [financially] yet. This is an exploratory situation.”

Harris, the head of merchant bank Seymour Pierce, also brokered the sale of Manchester City to Thaksin Shinawatra as well as Eggert Magnusson’s purchase of West Ham. As a United fan, Harris has aspired in the past to be part of a fan-based takeover, albeit without success.

Speaking to the BBC’s Football Focus yesterday, he said: “We [Seymour Pierce] have been approached and if we can lend our weight to doing something for the good of Manchester United and football, we will.” He was unable to put a figure on any future offer for United. “It’s too early to say how much would have to be raised,” he said. “I would hope that there would be sufficient money in addition to that to show the Glazers they could take a profit and put the ownership into more caring hands.”

Asked to quantify the chances of a buyout by the Red Knights, as the unnamed would-be buyers have been labelled, Harris said: “It depends on the Glazers’ attitude.” The Glazers are believed to be happy in control and are not seeking offers to sell the club, which they bought for £800m in 2005 and was valued last year by Forbes at £1.3bn. To restructure United’s debt, the Glazers have just completed a £500m bond issue, which was over-subscribed twice over, showing the financial markets retain confidence in United.

A club statement issued yesterday read: “Manchester United is the most profitable football club in the world. Last year, on a record turnover of £278m, the club made a record cash profit of £91m. Interest payments were £41m and wages accounted for less than half of the turnover. The recent bond issue has been very successful and provides the club with certainty in its interest payments.” It added that money from Cristiano Ronaldo’s sale is available for players “who the manager thinks can improve the squad, not to prove to pundits that it exists”.




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