Ineos owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim have reportedly submitted improved bids to buy Manchester United before the 21:00 GMT deadline on Wednesday.
The two parties met with United officials earlier this month and both are said to have held positive meetings while visiting Old Trafford and United’s training ground.
Ineos is looking to buy the combined Glazer shareholding of around 69%, while the Qataris are targeting 100% of the club. United officials met with eight different potential investors over a 10-day period recently, including Ratcliffe and representatives of Sheikh Jassim.
However, the amount of their initial bids has not been disclosed, with reports suggesting both are in the region of £4.5bn, clearly far below the £5-6bn valuation that the club’s American owners, the Glazers, have established.
BREAKING: Sir Jim Ratcliffe will make an improved bid for Manchester United before the 9pm deadline 💰🔴 pic.twitter.com/dUWOrhhXRd— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) March 22, 2023
The next key question is whether any prospective bidders, including Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim, can submit an offer that persuades the Glazers to sell.
If not, and with United’s fortunes improving significantly in recent months under manager Erik ten Hag, the Americans may well decide to retain the club and perhaps instead look to sell a minority stake to the likes of US hedge fund Elliott Investment Management.
The Glazer family announced in November that they were considering selling United, and both Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim have expressed their desire to return the club to its former glories.
Sheikh Jassim’s Qatari consortium said its initial bid “plans to return the club to its former glories,” while Ineos emphasized that Manchester-born Ratcliffe would be “a British custodian for the club” and would aim to “put the Manchester back into Manchester United.”
Ineos, owned by 70-year-old British billionaire Ratcliffe, has a history of investment in sport and owns French Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss club Lausanne.
Its sporting portfolio also includes high-profile sailing team Ineos Britannia, a five-year partnership with Formula 1 team Mercedes, and took over the British-based Team Sky in cycling in 2019.
Sheikh Jassim, on the other hand, is a life-long Manchester United fan, chairman of Qatari bank QIB, and the son of a former prime minister of Qatar.
If either party is successful in their bid to acquire the club, it will be interesting to see how they steer the club forward and whether they can restore the glory days of one of the world’s most iconic football clubs.