Potential Manchester United owners have indeed been given until 21:00 GMT on Wednesday to make second, amended proposals for the team as the acquisition saga heats up.
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It’s unknown how strict this timeframe is, or whether any more bidders will surface.
But, BBC Sport has gathered that United officials briefly met with eight distinct potential investors over a 10-day time frame for high-level discussions, and there is considerable confidence that some of them will make official approaches.
It could imply that Raine – the financial firm handling the sale – declares a ‘preferred bidder’ very shortly and that it is then given exclusively on the more detailed proper research procedure that will take place.
It implies that the only 2 officially disclosed bids – Qatari banker Prince Jassim and Ineos founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe – will have been given just a few days to analyze the facts and information they acquired on trips to Old Trafford and the club’s Carrington practice facility the other week.
Both sides are said to have had positive discussions with United executives, and both are said to be still dedicated to the acquisition and to submitting better, more thorough bids.
While the amounts offered so yet have not been released (reports suggest both are in the range of £4.5 billion), they are certainly well below the £5-6 billion valuation given by the club’s American owner, the Glazers.
Ineos wants to buy the joint Glazer stake of roughly 69%, whereas the Qataris want to purchase the whole club.
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The next crucial question would be whether they – among other possible bidders – can produce an offer that tries to persuade the Glazers to buy. If not, and with United’s finances increasing substantially under the management of Erik ten Hag in recent times, the Americans may opt to maintain the team but instead transfer a minority stake to the sort of US investment bank Elliott Investment Management.
Curiously, Ratcliffe stated in a recently released Wall Street Journal interview done prior to last week’s trip to Old Trafford: “What users would rather not do is charge customers stupid prices for stuff because then users regret it later,” a strong message that he is largely decided not to pay over the odds for the club he claims he backed as a kid in Manchester.
He also stated that his goal in the club will be “primarily in winning trophies,” referring to the club as a “social asset” rather than a monetary one.
But, as the process progresses, the focus on both of these potential owners becomes more intense. The price war has been dubbed a “dirty derby of’sportswashing’ between companies tied to fossil fuels” by the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace. It highlights the fact that Ineos is a significant manufacturer of plastic and promotes fracking, as well as the reality that the Qatari bid was partially funded by natural gas and oil from one of the world’s greatest fossil fuel industries.
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Both offers must also address worries about links to other European football teams, with Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) holding Paris St Germain and Ineos also owning Nice and Lausanne.
Many United supporters, meanwhile, will simply prefer to witness the conclusion of Glazer’s divisive 18-year reign.