The Red Knights, a consortium of wealthy Manchester United supporters whose first tentative meeting took place in London yesterday, intends to bid for the club, the group revealed today. The Knights hope to pursued 40 wealthy backers to invest £20 million each in a £1.2 billion bid to remove the Glazer family from ownership.
Led by financier Keith Harris, who has brokered takeover deals at Chelsea and Manchester City, the Knights hope to raise around £1 billion from wealthy backers and borrow another £200 million on the financial markets to formulate a bid for the club.
“We can confirm that a group of high net worth individuals, who support Manchester United (known as the ‘Red Knights’), met in London yesterday,” a statement read today.
“This group is supportive of current management but are looking at the feasibility of putting together a proposal to be put to the Glazer family regarding the ownership of Manchester United.
“These discussions are in early stages and no contact has been made with the Glazer family.”
The Glazer family bought United in a £790 million leveraged buyout but has loaded the club with around £716 million in debt. Recent information provided in the Glazers’ bond issue prospectus revealed that the club will haemorrhaged at least £565 million in interest, dividend payments to the Glazers and other fees charged by the family over the next seven years.
However, with turnover increasing substantially during the Glazer fiver-year regime as a result of increased TV money and far higher ticket prices, any bid for the club will necessarily be in excess of £1 billion. Some analysts believe that it may take a bid of around £1.6 billion to pursued the Glazers to sell.
“For such a proposal to be viable it would require the involvement and support of Manchester United supporters worldwide,” the Knights’ statement adds pertinently.
“The Red Knights have been liaising with the Manchester United Supporters Trust and their representatives attended yesterday’s meeting.
“As a first step, the Red Knights want supporters to demonstrate their commitment by joining the free online membership of the Supporters Trust, www.joinmust.org.
“Any new ownership model would aim not only to put the club on a sound financial footing, but would also aim to put the supporters at the heart of everything the club does,” the statement concludes.
The Knights have set MUST a membership target of 100,000 in the first instance, it is reported. The organisation, which has more than 66,000 members at the time of writing, began as Shareholders United Against Glazer 12 years ago.
But MUST membership has rocketed since the Glazers’ bond issue in early January, with anger over United’s finances translated into member sign-ups and the growing green and gold protest movement.
“Our role in this is to generate interest among supporters and grow numbers to give us confidence that the groundswell of support is there for us to pursue it,” said MUST CEO, Duncan Drasdo.
“A bid could then go in quickly. I don’t know what the timescale will be, things keep surprising me with this, but I would imagine that it could probably be months rather than days or weeks.”
Whether the Glazer family, which said today it intends to keep hold of the United cash cow for at least seven more years, will sell is another matter altogether.