I have been obsessively trying to find info on who the potential buyer can be the last day or two. Mapped out the legal team at Latham & Watkins doing the transaction, looked at social media if any selfies could be found, gone through transaction records, checked many reports.
But I just can't get a feel either way. Nothing feel quite right. You don't get the feeling that there is symetrics between the report, one thing point in one direction, then the next thing point in another direction.
*Why is Dubai mentioned? Because they are the one country who don't own a football team. Glazers traveled to Dubai. Like its definitely not the worst guess, but at the same time -- Chelsea was for sale a while back. Why didn't they try to buy Chelsea if they wanted to get a top football club? The Saudi's (another fund than the Newcastle owners) at least made a big offer for Chelsea, but they were cut on a technically.
The PL already cleared one Saudi fund from not being identical to the state. With that precedent -- another Saudi fund "should" not be prevented from buying another PL team. Like why would they? The PL finds that one fund is not run by the Saudi state. Then they find that another fund is not run by the Saudi state. But these two funds cannot own a PL team each -- because both are run by the Saudi state or what? Makes no sense. The Saudi media fund at least made a bid for Chelsea, which Dubai didn't.
*Jimmy Radcliff? Checks a lot of boxes. But not really the biggest one. An investment in Manchester United of a total of like 8-9bn can be seen as attractive -- for someone that has so much money that they don't know how to spend it, and is willing to roll the dice and certainly don't mind the additional power and influence owning Manchester United means. For Radcliff, the little I know of him, it would be all about "fan value". Is that enough to go way above and beyond on the purchase price of an already extremely expensive toy? I don't quite get the feeling that it adds up to be honest.
*US Consortium? Like, there is no thing as a "US consortium" in business. Oh here comes another US consortium, they often make these type of investments. Except in football -- where it undoubtedly has somewhat been a thing. But if you look at big Merger & Acquisitions -- its downright rare that a consortium is involved. It simply means that the transaction is too big for one party -- but that there still is logic in making the transaction with the help of several bidders. There is no logic behind expecting a buyer to be a "consortium" -- since its the exception, not the rule. If anything, it just means that someone is punching a bit above its weight class. Perhaps there is a logic for it in sport team ownerships, but its not that obvious. For me consortium's make much more sense if its infrastructure or real estate that is sold. Something really really basic. Like lets say a power grid is sold, it doesn't matter much if you own 75% or 25% of it. Its worth the same, you aren't worried about what management will do with the grid. You just send out the bills.
Is it private equity? Venture capital? A hedge fund?
Like it can of course be more than one buyer -- but its just a very unclear term from my POV.
*I for a while got the feeling that it could be a US betting company (MGM / Ceasars). As I am sure most know, the US online betting market have opened up rapidly the last years. Naturally, existing entities in the US is trying to take their slice of it and the established European betting companies are of course investing a ton to also get a foothold there. But its kind of an unfair fight, because the European companies have a home market that isn't challenged at all by the US companies coming out of the woodwork, and the fight is solely on the US companies back yard. They can of course buy existing betting companies in Europe -- which they also have done. But MGM or Ceasars buying United -- it is a different kind of statement. Raine Group have done business with these companies lately.
But I just don't think they are strong enough. Draftkings have a market cap of like 10bn, the bigger US alternatives perhaps 14bn. They invest tremendous amounts in advertising -- and its just not profitable business right now.
*While I certainly can't rule out any of the most talked about alternatives above, I just can't shake the feeling that the buyer could be a surprise option.
Jim O'Neill gave an interview on Bloomberg just the other day. He tried to buy United what 10 years ago with a 1.2bn offer. He trashed the current asking price. His group (the Red Knight) definitely is very connected. Its full of ex bosses from Goldman and other big investment banks. If Jim O'Neill doesn't have a clue about who is buying United -- then its kept close to the chest. If he does know it, what he said could be interesting.
And he said one thing that caught my attention, first basically that he would never take a proposal with the current ask to his companions, he then added the interesting part which was something like a strong word of caution to whomever buys United, that it will not be a walk in the park to own the Club. There will be a lot of drama attached to it. And like with the attention it gets -- it won't be a walk in the park to own it. Drama at the club could reflect on certain type of owners. When something like the Mason Greenwood incident happens -- the owners could be asked about it. But only, if the new owners are responsible and will be expected to act like it. For some kind of hedge fund, they are untouchable. Faceless. How much have the enormous protests impacted the Glazers? Not much. Its not like Abu Dabi gets exposed if its exposed that City had cheated the FFP -- nobody cares, nobody expects anything else from them.
It doesn't have to mean anything, but to me it did sound like Jim O'Neill wanted to scare someone away or at least criticize a buyer for not thinking it through. Who would this be a thing for? Most certainly someone like Apple Inc. Like Tim Cook don't want an event meant to be about presenting iPhone 15 be stormed by angry fans or UK journalists asking why United haven't bought a new GK despite lost the first 3 games of the season. Like, you get what I mean. There will be protests if OT is to be replaced by a new arena. Whatever. The attention everything United gets -- its massive. Even if Apple is talked about all the time, its not on the headlines of big papers often.
I don't know, but listening to Jim O'Neill, I just did not get the impression that United would be bought by either faceless money/owners or scruple free people if you get what I mean. The above could also apply to Jim Radcliff -- but not more so than to Jim himself (unless he wants Radcliff to join the Red Knights).
I wouldn't rule out an industrial buyer. I know many would, I respect their arguments for sure. It certainly don't have to be Apple. Could be Tencent or Alibaba or Amazon. It was when I saw this interview that I started to consider the Betting industry, but like I said above, they are too small. Jim ONeill's warning would of course have made sense in relation to MGM, Ceasars and co too.
*The last alternative I would not rule out is that -- a large political risk -- is seen on the Horizon. Something that would result in clubs being worth a lot less in 10-20 years time. And hence everyone just puts up their clubs for sale right now while they still can get premium pay.