Arguably the world’s most famous soccer club, Manchester United is reportedly being pursued by a consortium of Chinese investors who are prepared to fork out $4 billion for just a minor stake in the club.
The club is owned by the family of the late Malcolm Glazer, which also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Glazer bought the club outright in 2005 for $1.2 billion.
Forbes magazine’s latest list of the world’s most valuable sports teams values the club at $3.1 billion.
Sources close to the Manchester United British say the Chinese Consortium, headed by CITIC Capital, has already meet with Club officials. However CITIC has refused to acknowledge or deny the claim.
The source says the consortium knows the Glazer family has no incentive to sell off shares to hand over control of the club, and so it is prepared to bid for a minority share holding.
One of the conditions of purchase from the Chinese investors is that the club becomes involved not only in “football-related” business such as visits to China for “friendlies”, but also be willing to look at commercial business opportunities there as well.
China watchers say it is more than a coincidence that the Chinese buy into Manchester United follows hot on the heels of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Britain, where he called for closer sporting links between China and Britain. Ironically Xi visited United’s cross town rival Manchester City during his visit where he posed for selfies with club players. City is owned by Sheikh Mansour, one of football’s wealthiest owners.
In January one of China’s richest men Wang Jianlin paid $50 million for a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico. Chinese companies have also recently expressed interest in French team Sochaux and Dutch side ADO Den Haag.