A wealthy Qatari banker has reportedly been joined by Sir Jim Ratcliffe in launching an official takeover bid for Manchester United.
According to multiple reports, Ratcliffe’s Ineos company will compete with Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of Qatari bank QIB, to acquire the Old Trafford club from the Glazer family.
Ratcliffe is one of the UK’s wealthiest people with an estimated net worth a £12.5billion following the success of global chemical company Ineos.
He had already expressed his desire to buy United – the club he has supported since childhood – although Friday’s soft 10pm deadline passed by without formal comment from the 70-year-old’s camp.
The PA news agency has contacted both Ratcliffe – who also owns cycling team Ineos Grenadiers, Ligue 1 side Nice, Swiss club Lausanne-Sport and is a one-third shareholder of the Mercedes Formula One team – and Ineos for comment.
Like Ratcliffe, Al Thani claims to be a boyhood United fan, and has indicated his offer would leave the Old Trafford club debt-free, in contrast to the Glazer family’s controversial leveraged buy-out in 2003.
A statement released on Friday night read: “Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani today confirmed his submission of a bid for 100 per cent of Manchester United Football Club.
“The bid plans to return the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch, and – above all – will seek to place the fans at the heart of Manchester United Football Club once more.
“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports.
“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”
The PA news agency understands the Raine Group – brought in to assist United in assessing offers – wants the buyout process to move at speed, with the first quarter of the year recognised as a key time.
United could even be under new ownership by the end of the current season.
But prior to the Qatari announcement – and the possibility of a potential rival bid from Saudi Arabia – Manchester United’s LGBTQ+ supporters’ group the Rainbow Devils raised “deep concern” regarding interest from nations where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
“Rainbow Devils believe any bidder seeking to buy Manchester United must commit to making football a sport for everyone, including LGBTQ+ supporters, players and staff,” said the group on Twitter.
“We therefore have deep concern over some of the bids that are being made. We are watching the current process closely with this in mind.”
The Glazer family effectively made United open for offers in November, raising hopes among supporters that their controversial reign was coming to a close.
United, who are third in the Premier League, five points adrift of leaders’ Manchester City, return to action on Sunday when they face Leicester at Old Trafford.