Qatar's Sheikh Jassim withdraws bid to buy Manchester United

Qatar's Sheikh Jassim withdraws bid to buy Manchester United
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani said he was withdrawing a bid to buy English club Manchester United.
3 min read
Sheikh Jassim was among the front runners for the purchase of Manchester United, but he has now pulled out [Getty]

Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani has withdrawn a bid to buy Manchester United, a source close to the deal told AFP on Saturday.

United announced nearly a year ago that they were exploring "strategic alternatives to enhance the club's growth", with a full sale one of the options.

Sheikh Jassim and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe were the front-runners after several rounds of bidding earlier this year, but the process has stalled in recent months despite the anger of supporters towards current owners, the Glazer family.

The Daily Mail reported that Ratcliffe is now set to secure a 25 percent stake in the club for around £1.5 billion ($1.7 billion).

The Glazers have owned the English giants since a leveraged takeover in 2005 for £790 million saddled the club with huge debts.

Figures in March showed United's debt has now grown to £970 million.

Sheikh Jassim's bid was for full control of United and promised to clear the club's borrowings.

Further talks this week broke down despite an improved bid believed to be around £5 billion.

By contrast, Ratcliffe is reportedly willing to buy a smaller stake to break the impasse over the Glazers' £6 billion asking price.

Founder of petrochemicals giant Ineos, Ratcliffe is a boyhood United fan and already has a portfolio of sports investments.

Ineos owns French club Nice and Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, as well as leading cycling team Ineos Grenadiers and is a major sponsor of the Mercedes Formula One team.

United's fortunes on the field have also faded under the Glazers' tenure.

The Red Devils have not won the Premier League since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 and last won the Champions League in 2008.

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They currently sit 10th in the Premier League and have lost their first two Champions League group stage matches for the first time in the club's history.

Fans have also been left frustrated at a lack of investment in United's infrastructure over the past two decades.

Old Trafford remains the largest club football stadium in England, but is in need of significant redevelopment to keep pace with the facilities offered by their rivals.

United's home was overlooked in favour of Manchester City's Etihad Stadium for the UK and Ireland's successful bid to host Euro 2028.

The Sheikh Jassim deal also promised $1.7 billion to finance plans for a new stadium and training centre, as well investment in the transfer market on players.

But the bid by the son of a former Qatari prime minister raised concerns over the potential growth of state influence in the Premier League.

Reigning Premier League champions City's fortunes have been transformed since a takeover from Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, in 2008.

In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund also bought a controlling stake in Newcastle.

Amnesty International has called on the Premier League to tighten ownership rules to ensure they are "not an opportunity for more sportswashing".