Investors in Saudi Arabia were interested in launching a takeover bid for Manchester United as recently as October, only to switch their attentions to Newcastle instead.
PCP Capital Partners, led by American businesswoman Amanda Staveley and backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, are expected to complete a £300m takeover of Newcastle in the next few weeks, after legal paperwork was filed to end the acrimonious ownership of Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley.
But a report from the Evening Standard suggests that the Magpies were not necessarily at the head of the takeover queue, instead indicating that Manchester United – owned by the equally controversial, in supporters eyes anyway, Glazer family – were instead the Saudi’s primary target.
It’s said that ‘interested parties’ were willing to pay as much as €4.5bn to gain control of the Glazers’ controlling shares, but formal talks failed to take place, despite intermediaries being tasked with drawing up a potential takeover plan.
The pressure on United’s owners and chief executive Ed Woodward to sell up has been mounting for as long as anybody can remember, though it seems the Glazers have no intention of selling the club.
That sentiment rings true if Woodward’s comments to United We Stand from October are anything to go by, when he suggested that the club’s business model means there is no pressure to shut up shop and move on.
“Based on what I see, they’re in it for the long-term,” Woodward said. “With regards to offers or asking prices, my understanding is that there have been no discussions for a price for the club or anything like that.
“Every conversation we have is based on the long-term. The debt is a long-term, structured and similar to some other football clubs. It’s a fixed amount for a fixed period of time which results in it being fairly cheap to service.”
Unfortunately for Woodward, he doesn’t appear to be a popular figure in Manchester – evidenced by a disgusting attack on his family home, when masked hooligans threw lit flares over the front gate of his home, also lining the outside of his property with graffiti.
Prior to that, speculation that a deal with Saudi investors heightened when United’s group managing director Richard Arnold visited the country, where he spoke at a conference and had dinner with a friend who previously led one of United’s sponsors.
But nothing ever came of it and it’s been quiet on the western front since; with Newcastle instead set to be the beneficiaries of some rather hefty investment from the PIF – worth around €250bn and led by 34-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.