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Explained: Everything you needed to know about The Glazers, Manchester United's billionaire owners

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The Glazers own Manchester United

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Explained: Everything you needed to know about The Glazers, Manchester United's billionaire owners

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SportsCafe Desk

04/20/2021

In light of the recent chaos caused by the creation of the Super League, we take a deep dive into the family that's at the heart of the move in the Glazer family, Manchester United's owners. Joel Glazer also just happens to be one of the co-vice presidents responsible for the Super League.

Who owned Manchester United before the Glazers?

Before the Glazers era, millionaire businessmen J.P. McManus and John Magnier were the second-biggest shareholders in Manchester United Football Club. They had spent a total of almost £7.4 million (49.4 million) to take their stake in the football club to just under 9 per cent. But as a result of their clash with then manager Sir Alex Ferguson, it made them reconsider their decision. Eventually, the pair agreed to sell their 28.89 per cent stake, for £3 (€4.40) a share, to Malcolm Glazer. This values their 75.7 million shares at close to €335 million.

When and how did the Glazers take over?

Malcolm Glazer started accumulating shares of United in 2003 on the advice of his sons. By 2005, he had managed to take full ownership of the club with him spending, in 2003, around £9m on his first 2.9%. This figure exponentially increased to almost 30% by the end of the next year. After former United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson had a fallout with businessmen John Magnier and J.P. McManus, it led to the businessmen wanting out of the club.

Glazer ended up buying their shares, with the pair owning a total of 28.7% shares in the club. His final ownership came up to around 57% which was well over the 30% threshold required to launch a takeover bid. When The Glazers managed to take over 75% ownership, he was able to remove the company from the stock exchange. Within a month, Red Football Ltd managed to take over 98% ownership and squeezed out the 2% which remained. Executive Chairman Ed Woodward who was recruited by the Glazers for a 'financial planning' role exerted a  strong influence on the overall takeover.

What did that lead to?

The nature of this Glazers takeover hasn’t gone down well with the fans despite making their footballing ambitions known to the world. What ensued was the creation of the FC United of Manchester, by a group of disillusioned fans. It is also interesting to recall the "green and gold" protest which ensued in retaliation to Glazers’ decision to issue a £500 million bond in order to reduce the club’s debt burden. In the late 19th century, the club wore a green and gold stripe which later on became the symbol of growing resentment against the Glazers’ ownership. 30,000 scarves have been sold as a symbolic and unanimous rejection of the ownership and their views.

Has Manchester United managed to overcome their debt?

No, they have not overcome their debts.

What is their debt like?

Well, Manchester United was debt-free when the Glazers took over in 2005. But unfortunately, the take over deal put a burden of  £500 million ($920m) worth of debt onto the club's finances. It saw Malcom Glazer use a ‘leveraged buyout plan’ policy to ease up the loan burden, but this did not sit well with the fans at all. It was reported that the takeover has cost the club well over £1 billion ($1.3bn) in interest and other fees.

As a result of this, the company’s tax registration was shifted to the Cayman Islands in 2012. The club had to pay a yearly dividend, most of which have gone to Glazers since 2015. Recent reports have revealed that the club’s dividends have reached a total of £23 million ($30m) with  £18 million ($24m) evenly distributed among the six Glazer kids.

Along with this, the various commercial contracts signed during the glazer era boosted the club’s revenue since 2005. As of 2021 Deloitte Football Money League rankings, Manchester united is the fourth most richest club in the world valued at €580.4m.

What does this mean for the Glazers and Manchester United?

When it comes to English football, Manchester United has always been at the pinnacle of it. But ever since Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of the Premier League giants in 2005, Old Trafford has experienced success, disappointment along with increased debts and huge revenues. Boasting a record 20 Premier League titles and three Champions League trophies, the Red Devils remain one of the world’s richest and most successful club in the history of the English game.

Despite their on-field struggles in recent years, they are one of the most marketable clubs in world football but the club’s ownership remains to be a highly controversial topic. The Glazers are quite unpopular amongst the fan base. Several protests have been held in retaliation to the American Family’s take over, most notably the creation of FC United of Manchester semi-professional football club in Moston, Manchester, England, that competes in the seventh tier of the English football league system.

But before we dive into that, let’s take a look at who are the Glazers and why are they so factious in the world of Football.

How did the Glazers make their money?

Born to Lithuanian parents in Rochester, New York, Malcolm was the fifth of the seven children. After his fathers death and as a teenager, Glazer supported his family by selling watches door to door. He eventually bought the watch repair concession and successfully turned it into a booming business before shifting into real estate. The Glazers' first move into sports ownership came when he ended up buying the shares of NFL giants Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the death of former owner Hugh Culverhouse for a record $192 million (£122m).

So the Glazers own another sports team?

That's right. They own an NFL team named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Have the Glazers' helped transform the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

They did. The NFL side has experienced a massive overturn in fortune since the Glazers' takeover winning 131 regular-season games, earning seven playoff berths and capturing its first Super Bowl Championship in Super Bowl XXXVII and again in Super Bowl LV. Before the proposed takeover, the Buccaneers had just managed to win 87 games in 19 seasons and had advanced to the postseason just three times.

Who are the current owners of Manchester United?

Currently the Red Devil’s run under the ownership of the late former owner Malcolm Glazer’s six children: Avram, Joel, Kevin, Bryan, Darcie and Edward Glazer. In 2005, Malcolm who was also the owner of NFL giants Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to take control of the majority stake in the club through investment company Red Football Ltd. 90% of the controlling stake had been equally divided between the six children following his death in May 2004 by stroke. Since then Joel and Avram had been in charge of running the day-to-day activities. The pair are now co-chairmen with Kevin, Bryan, Darcie and Edward holding positions as directors.

Were there potential suitors for Manchester United?

Prior to the Glazers’, several parties were interested in the takeover process most notably media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who had an offer of £623 million ($1bn) to facilitate the take over the process. Potential conflict of interest put a full stop to the deal but rumours also suggest that former Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi was very interested in acquiring club shares. Several reports even indicated that he was “a whisker away” from sealing the deal.

But in response to such rumours, Woodward made it clear to the fans that they were in it for the long run and not looking to sell the club shares to anyone whatsoever.

Have the Glazers done anything good for Manchester United?

Although the Glazers were able to remove Manchester United from the New York Stock exchange and convert the club into supergiants, much has been said about their neglect of the stadium. Popularly known as the Theatre of Dreams, the current infrastructure of Old Trafford is in shambles with the hole in the roof an ironic reflection of the state of the club; rotten from the very top, with no one doing anything to change it.

Old Trafford was once the leader of the stadium redevelopment but now has become severely outdated due to lack of maintenance. With the current revelation of how the owners are much more concerned with making up the monetary loss endured during covid through the ESL than taking into consideration the wider good of football, it is no surprise that Manchester United is run as an investment venture rather than a football club.

Wow, so they really haven't done anything good?

But having said that, these potential investments have been to a certain extent responsible for the larger part of Manchester United’s uninterrupted success. Reports have revealed that  Manchester United had the highest sales of football or soccer shirts in the world at 3,250,000 million units for the 2018/2019 season. The Glazers and Ed Woodward have also been the architects behind Manchester United’s global appeal.

Through incessant marketing and signature sponsorship deals with heavyweights like Adidas and Chevrolet, it has turned United into a club that effectively outweighs other top division clubs in terms of earnings. Because of that, the club has been able to sign a lot of players over the years with the like Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba signing over the years and turning them into potential title challengers for the coming seasons.

Under the leadership of former player Ole Gunner Solksjaer, it remains to be seen how much Manchester United have developed as a club while gearing for potential silverware to end the season on a high note.

Have they done anything else?

Yes, they have. The Glazers' have reportedly played a key role in creating the Super League alongside Liverpool's owners FSG, Arsenal's owners Stan Kronke and a few others.

What is the Super league?

It is a breakaway league created by 12 of Europe's biggest clubs with them unhappy with the way UEFA ran things. The "dirty dozen", as they have been called by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, confirmed that in a statement that they have created the Super League as founders.

The Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ - Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Manchester United and Tottenham - will be joined by La Liga trio Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid as and Italy's three most successful clubs in Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan of Serie A, with plans for three more teams to join in future.

How did it all start?

Well, this has been a plan three decades in the making. Because at some point over the last 30 years, or so, these clubs have threatened to breakaway and create their own league with leaked documents in 2018 revealing the same. But those pointed at PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich although in the years since things have changed with the COVID-19 pandemic exasperating things and that has lead to the Super League.

It started with the unilateral announcement of owners of some of the biggest football clubs in the world, namely the likes of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, Juventus chief Andrea Agnelli, Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer and Vinai Venkatesham, Chief Executive Officer at Arsenal to name a few. Twelve of the biggest clubs in world football has decided to come up with a league of their own which would be known as the Super League.

Aimed at recovering the financial losses incurred as a result of the Covid pandemic, this ambitious project is funded by the popular American investment bank JP. Morgan. 20 teams would be divided into groups of 10 with 15 spots reserved, three clubs are left to be decided, for the founding members. Selection to the remaining spots would be decided based on individual footballing merit in the respective domestic leagues.

What does this mean for the future of football with the proposed European Super League?

With Joel Glazer announced as one of the joint vice-chairmen alongside Andrea Agnelli, with Florentino Perez as the chairman, much remains to be seen following their departure from the ECA. Although several reports claim that the decision of creating the European Super League is in order to cater to the wider footballing interests of the younger population in general, many consider this to be just another way of generating more revenue for the American owners.

With plans of initiating this so-called super league as early as August 2021, what follows is will be an uninterrupted hegemony and monopoly of the biggest and the richest clubs in the world. Playing midweek fixtures against top teams day in and out with complete control over the league proceedings under the billionaire owners is what the Super League has been created for with them also set to earn a lot of money in the process.

Following widespread resentment from the governing bodies of UEFA, FIFA, Premier League, FA, La Liga, Serie A and most importantly the fans, it remains to be seen what will be the outcome of such an ambitious project following several legal sanctions against the 12 teams of the Super League.

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