Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim makes second bid as battle to buy Man United heats up

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The battle to buy Manchester United came up on Wednesday when Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani returned with a second offer for the English giants.

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe is also expected to make a second bid for the 20-time English champions.

Interested parties had until 2100GMT on Wednesday to announce their bid for Raine, the merchant bank to be brought in to help sell the club.

A source close to Sheikh Jassim’s offer told AFP he remains confident his offer is “the best for the club, the fans and the local community”.

United’s owners, the Glazer family, are said to have arranged a world-best £6 billion ($7.3 billion) valuation for a sports club.

The Glazers looked set to cash in their chips for a huge profit when they invited outside investment in November.

However, they could still stop the option of selling a controlling stake in the club to other parties interested in a minority shareholding.

Initial bids from the first round of bidding last month were believed to be worth around £4.5 billion.

That would surpass the Premier League record of £2.5 billion paid by a consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital, with a further £1.75 billion pledged as further investment in infrastructure and players.

Sheikh Jassim’s bid for 100 percent control of the club promises to wipe out United’s $620 million debt and invest heavily in a new stadium and training ground, as well as support for the men’s and women’s teams on the field.

The founder of chemical company INEOS Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, was more circumspect in his assessment of the process, insisting he will not pay a “stupid” price in a bidding war for one of football’s most iconic clubs.

“How do you set the price of a painting? How do you set the price of a house? It has nothing to do with how much it costs to build or how much it costs to paint,” Ratcliffe told the Wall Street Journal this week.

“What you don’t want to do is pay stupid prices for things because then you regret it later.”

Ratcliffe, who wants the 69 per cent stake owned by the Glazer family, said his interest in United would be “entirely about winning things”, calling the club a “community asset”.

Bidders are expected to hear from United next week, with another round of bids yet to be played.

If one offer is far ahead of the others, it may be selected to enter an exclusivity period, which would allow for further negotiations before the final sale.

– Qatar eye Premier League status –

Ratcliffe visited Old Trafford last Friday with INEOS representatives, a day after a delegation from the Sheikh Jassim group toured the club’s stadium and training ground for further talks as part of their due diligence.

Just months after hosting the 2022 World Cup, a successful Qatari bid would give the Gulf state pride of place in the Premier League – the world’s most watched domestic competition.

But it would also be controversial.

Sheikh Jassim is the son of former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, and his close ties to the Gulf state’s ruling elite would raise questions about another Premier League club becoming a state-backed project.

The fortunes of Premier League champions Manchester City have changed dramatically since Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, took over in 2008.

In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund bought a controlling stake in Newcastle.

Amnesty International called on the Premier to tighten ownership rules to ensure they are not “an opportunity for more sports laundering”.

Three-time European champions United have not won the Premier League since the legendary Alex Ferguson guided them to the title in his final season before retiring in 2013.

But they are enjoying a revival under the management of Erik ten Hag this season.

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