According to a source close to the deal, Qatari financier Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani has decided to withdraw his attempt to buy Manchester United. This comes after nearly a year of United investigating various strategic choices for club expansion, including a full sale.
Earlier this year, Sheikh Jassim and British businessman Jim Ratcliffe were the frontrunners in the bidding process. Despite supporters’ worries about the Glazer family’s current ownership, the bid process has stalled in recent months.
According to the Daily Mail, Jim Ratcliffe is in talks to buy a 25% stake in the club for around £1.5 billion ($1.7 billion).
Since their leveraged buyout of Manchester United in 2005, which left the club with substantial debt, the Glazers have owned the club. United’s debt had risen to £970 million as of March.
Sheikh Jassim’s offer sought complete ownership of Manchester United and included intentions to pay off the club’s debts. Despite a better bid worth roughly £5 billion, negotiations broke down this week.
Jim Ratcliffe, the founder of petrochemicals behemoth Ineos and a lifetime United supporter, is willing to buy a lesser interest to break the deadlock over the Glazers’ £6 billion asking price.
Ineos already has a sports investment portfolio, including ownership of French club Nice and Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, as well as sponsorship of the Mercedes Formula One team and ownership of a notable cycling team, Ineos Grenadiers.
Manchester United’s on-field performance has suffered under the Glazers’ ownership. They haven’t won the Premier League since 2013, and the last time they did was in 2008. They are now tenth in the Premier League and, for the first time in club history, have lost their first two Champions League group stage matches.
Fans have also expressed dissatisfaction with the club’s lack of investment in its infrastructure, with Old Trafford in desperate need of considerable rebuilding.
While Sheikh Jassim’s transaction included a $1.7 billion investment, questions were expressed regarding potential state involvement in the Premier League due to his history as the son of a former Qatari prime minister.
The Sheikh Jassim offer featured plans for a new stadium, a training complex, and investments in the player transfer market.
The Premier League has been urged to strengthen ownership regulations in order to prevent “sportswashing” by foreign interests, as seen with Manchester City and Newcastle.