(Reuters) -Manchester United have received a bid from Jim Ratcliffe’s company INEOS for “majority ownership” of the Premier League club, the chemical firm confirmed on Saturday, adding that it would look implement a fan-centred approach.
The Glazer family, United’s American owners, said in November they had begun looking at options for the record 20-time English champions, including new investment or a potential sale, 17 years after they bought the Old Trafford club.
British billionaire Ratcliffe, a life-long United fan and founder of INEOS, has previously openly expressed his interest in buying the Old Trafford club. INEOS formally entered the bidding process to purchase United earlier this year.
“We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community,” INEOS said in a statement.
“We are ambitious and highly competitive and would want to invest in Manchester United to make them the number one club in the world once again.”
INEOS has long been involved in sport, with the company acting as principal partners to eight-times Formula One champions Mercedes, owning the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team and serving as performance partner to the New Zealand rugby team.
The company also bought French Ligue 1 club Nice in 2019.
The Glazers purchased United for 790 million pounds ($950.77 million) in 2005 as part of a highly-leveraged deal.
United fans have been clamouring for a change of ownership and the Glazers, who also own the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have been criticised as the team last won trophies in 2017, lifting the Europa League and League Cup.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) said in November that the club needed new owners and fresh investment to halt years of decline and fans should be given a real say in how it is run in future.
INEOS said it wants to make United a beacon for a “modern, progressive, fan-centred approach to ownership.
“We want a Manchester United anchored in its proud history and roots in the North-West of England, putting the Manchester back into Manchester United and clearly focusing on winning the Champions League,” the statement said.
The initial deadline for bids expired on Friday. Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, a son of Qatar’s former prime minister, also confirmed a bid on Friday.
On Thursday, the Daily Telegraph reported that Saudi Arabia has also submitted a bid for United.
United are the fourth richest soccer club in the world, according to analysis by Deloitte. They are widely seen as one of the most prized assets in all of sport.
The team, managed by Erik ten Hag, are third in the league standings on 46 points after 23 games. They next welcome Leicester City on Sunday.
A sale of the club would likely exceed the biggest sports deal so far, which was the $5.2 billion – including debt and investments – paid for their London-based Premier League rivals Chelsea, sources told Reuters previously.
United’s Premier League rivals Liverpool have also said they are exploring a sale, while Tottenham Hotspur are expected to receive a bid worth $3.75 billion from Iranian-American billionaire Jahm Najafi, Reuters has reported.
($1 = 0.8309 pounds)
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