Qatari financier Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani has decided to withdraw his offer to purchase Manchester United, as disclosed by a source with knowledge of the situation to AFP on Saturday.
Almost a year ago, Manchester United had disclosed that they were exploring various “strategic alternatives” to boost the club’s growth, including the possibility of a complete sale.
Sheikh Jassim, along with British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, had been the primary contenders in the bidding process earlier this year.
However, despite fan discontent towards the current owners, the Glazer family, the process had hit a standstill in recent months.
Reports from The Daily Mail suggest that Jim Ratcliffe is now on the verge of securing a 25 percent stake in the club for approximately £1.5 billion ($1.7 billion).
The Glazers have held ownership of the English football giants since a leveraged takeover in 2005, which left the club with substantial debts. As of March, United’s debt had ballooned to £970 million.
Sheikh Jassim’s proposal had been for complete control of Manchester United, along with a commitment to clear the club’s debts. Despite an improved bid of approximately £5 billion, talks this week faltered.
Jim Ratcliffe, in contrast, appears willing to purchase a smaller stake to resolve the deadlock over the Glazers’ £6 billion asking price.
As the founder of the petrochemicals conglomerate Ineos, Ratcliffe is an ardent United fan and already holds a portfolio of sports investments. Ineos owns French club Nice and Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, among other sports assets.
During the Glazers’ tenure, Manchester United’s performance on the field has declined. They haven’t won the Premier League since the retirement of former manager Alex Ferguson in 2013 and last secured the Champions League title in 2008.
Presently, they sit in 10th place in the Premier League and have lost their first two matches in the Champions League group stage for the first time in the club’s history.
In addition to on-field performance, fans have voiced frustration over a lack of investment in the club’s infrastructure over the past two decades. Despite being the largest club football stadium in England, Old Trafford requires significant redevelopment to match the facilities offered by rival clubs.
Furthermore, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium was favored over Old Trafford for the UK and Ireland’s successful bid to host Euro 2028.
Sheikh Jassim’s proposal also involved a $1.7 billion commitment for a new stadium and training center, as well as investments in the transfer market for players.
Nonetheless, concerns were raised about the potential expansion of state influence in the Premier League in the event of Sheikh Jassim’s deal, given his ties to a former Qatari prime minister.
In the past, the fortunes of reigning Premier League champions Manchester City changed significantly following their takeover by Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, in 2008.
In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund acquired a controlling stake in Newcastle United.
Amnesty International has called for stricter ownership rules in the Premier League to prevent the league from being used for “sportswashing.