Son of former Qatar PM wants to buy Manchester United from Glazers

A son of Qatar’s ex-Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, one of the richest men in the Gulf state, has made a bid to take over Premier League club Manchester United.

The son, Sheikh Jassim, confirmed his bid for one of the biggest and most prestigious football clubs in the world in a statement to the Financial Times.

Sheikh Hamad, known as HBJ, is a billionaire and was one of Qatar’s most powerful figures in the 1990s and 2000s, where he served as prime minister and foreign minister.

As Qatar used its gas wealth to snag trophy fortunes in the 2000s, he ran the Qatar Investment Authority and was the face of a spending spree that saw Doha buy stakes in The Shard, Chelsea Barracks, Canary Wharf, the London Stock Exchange and London the Hotels Berkeley and Connaught in London.

However, HBJ’s influence waned when Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani surprised the Gulf by stepping down as Emir in 2013, handing power to his son Sheikh Tamim, the current ruler.

HBJ was quickly replaced as prime minister and head of the QIA, the sovereign wealth fund. However, he manages a huge private fortune and remains an active investor. Forbes magazine estimates that he has a net worth of $1.3 billion.

The offer relates to full ownership of the club, which is owned by the Glazer family, the American sports investors, is debt-free and transacted through a foundation set up by Sheikh Jassim.

A takeover of United could break the record price paid for American football’s Denver Broncos last year. Billionaire Rob Walton, heir to the Walmart retail fortune, acquired the NFL franchise for $4.6 billion.

Commercial bank Raine Group is leading the sale of Manchester United, having been given the mandate after conducting Chelsea FC’s £2.5billion auction last year. Raine did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The offer is confirmed on the day of the first deadline in the takeover process. Competing bidders could include Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire founder of chemical giant Ineos, who has previously expressed an interest in the asset.

“The bid is designed to restore the club to its former glory both on and off the pitch and, most importantly, to put fans back at the heart of Manchester United Football Club,” said a spokesman representing Sheikh Jassim.

United have not won the Premier League since 2013, when legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson retired after his last title.

“The offering will be completely debt free through Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will invest in the football teams, training centre, stadium and other infrastructure, fan experience and communities supported by the club.”

Qatar has invested billions of dollars in sport over the past two decades to project its image on the global stage, and last year it successfully hosted the Arab world’s first World Cup.

In 2011, Qatar Sports Investments, a state-controlled vehicle, acquired French club Paris Saint-Germain.

There was speculation that either the QSI or the QIA, the sovereign wealth fund, were interested in buying a stake in Manchester United. But any majority bids would have been complicated by rules from Uefa, the governing body of European football, which prevent a company from controlling two clubs competing in the same competitions.

A person familiar with Manchester United’s discussions said that no government-affiliated entity, including QIA and QSI, bid for United. Neither was the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim, or his close relatives.

The QIA had discussions with United and Liverpool months ago about a possible minority stake, but decided it didn’t make financial sense, the person said.

The Glazer family have owned the Red Devils and the 20-time English league champions since 2005 when their £790m leveraged buyout destroyed ties with the club’s fan base from the start. The Glazers confirmed they were considering a sale as part of a broader strategic review announced last November.

The auction is seen as a unique opportunity to acquire one of the biggest sports brands in the world and earn a place in the small club of owners in the Premier League, the world’s highest-grossing football league.

Shares of the New York-listed club have soared to record highs of over $26.50 this week, valuing the club at around $4.4 billion by market cap. The stock was trading at around $13 before the Glazers announced in November that they were considering a sale.

A spokesman for the bid declined to comment on its value. Son of former Qatar PM wants to buy Manchester United from Glazers

Adam Bradshaw

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