United owners at best a joke, at worst an over-leveraged accident waiting to happen – sources.
I’ve been a Manchester United supporter since 1955, and so The Slog has been following the antics of the
tragically failed cryogenic experiment Glazer family since they took over the club. The story so far is easy to relate: the greed of three United directors allowed the Glazers in, following which they saddled a debt-free club with £600m of debt, took it off the market and began filing their accounts in Delaware, a State whose company reporting rules make Bermuda look positively indiscreet by comparison.
The Glazers borrowed too much against shady businesses when the going was good, and are now looking for mugs to give them yet more highly-geared Monopoly money so they can clear off the mounting debts. Asia’s massive fan-base made the Far East their first choice, the only problem being that Asians are smart and saw the scam coming a mile off. So there was a quick switch to New York, and an even quicker decision by the Big Apple’s movers and shakers to switch off the proposed public offering.
I was putting the finishing touches to a piece about their reception in New York when the news broke last night that the family had ‘put off’ the flotation. The Daily Telegraph this morning notes that ‘the Premier League club has decided to temporarily pause its plans, as anxiety over the eurozone unsettles markets across the Atlantic’.
My enquiries of last week and this suggest that is complete bollocks. Last Thursday, one US-based institutional adviser told me:
“Their valuation of United’s stock is a joke. They won’t get any further in this town. They’re just a bunch of guys on the make. It won’t happen”.
This has proved to be a prescient remark. A trusted corporate legal source had this to say over the weekend:
“The Glazers don’t check out – at least, this is what’s coming back to me. The word is they need the money to survive, and it certainly shows in the way they’re approaching this. After Facebook, a lot of folks have grown up about hype. The dual-ownership thing in particular is seen as an obvious ploy to get money without responsibility. The mood isn’t there any more for buccaneers like the Glazers.”
Today’s Telegraph piece certainly confirms that feedback: ‘Several institutions, including Sica Wealth Management and Beam Capital Management, earlier this month voiced doubts over Manchester United’s high levels of debt, and the dual ownership structure proposed by the American Glazer family’ writes Nathalie Thomas.
But the big question raised by this is where do the debt-laden Glazer family members go from here? United had, by their standards, a disastrous season during 2011-12. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been talking up his ‘kids’, but an increasing number of fans have their doubts about the current ownership structure. In the background wait the Red Knights, a well-heeled group of genuine Manchester United devotees who have been biding their time, waiting for the Glazers to run out of road. Their time may well have come.