INTERNATIONAL

Man Utd takeover: Rival bidders react to Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus’ unique offer

The 69-year-old has presented a bold proposal to the Raine Group, who are overseeing the handling of the sale of Manchester United, in which he would purchase half of the club with the other 50 per cent funded by fans

Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus’s move to buy Manchester United has been dismissed as a publicity stunt by rival bidders.

Zilliacus claimed he has submitted a proposal to buy United, which would see him purchase half of the club, with the other 50 per cent funded by fans.

The 69-year-old, founder and chairman of the social media NovaM Group, presented the bold proposal to the Raine Group, the US merchant bank handling the sale of United. But the bid has been dismissed as unworkable and not a serious proposal by rival bidders, who believe only a complete takeover of the club by a single buyer will persuade the Glazers to sell.

The proposed sale of United descended into farce this week when Wednesday’s 9pm deadline for bids had to be extended by 48 hours, at the request of the two frontrunners.

Revised bids from Qatar, fronted by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and one from INEOS chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe, were given two further days to be submitted to the Raine Group.

Zilliacus, previously involved with HJK Helsinki and ice hockey champions Jokerit in his native Finland, wants to buy United through XXI Century Capital, an investment firm owned by his holding company.

“Any sports club ultimately should belong to its fans,” said Zilliacus. “My bid is built on equality with fans.

“The current development, where billionaire sheiks and oligarchs take over clubs and control them as their personal playgrounds is not a healthy trend.

“The current market value of the club is just under $3.9bn (£3.17bn). That means that if every one of the fans of the club would join in buying the club, the total sum per fan would amount to less than $6.

“My group will finance half of the sum needed to take over the club, and will ask the fans, through a new company that is being set up for this specific purpose, to participate for the other half. If every fan joins it means less than $3 per fan.”v

Zilliacus plans to give supporters a say in the running of United through an App from which they can “participate and cast” their vote “when deciding on football matters relating to the club”.

It is also understood US-based Elliott Investment Management has made an offer to purchase a minority stake in United.

Elliott, former owners of AC Milan, had initially offered to fund potential bidders, but are now understood to have lodged their own proposal for a minority stake in United.

But it is understood the Glazers, who bought United in 2005 in a highly-leveraged deal which has cost the club hundreds of millions of pounds in debt and interest repayments, are only interested in a full sale, rather than a minority stake investment.

Valuing United on its market value of £3.45bn, not the £6bn the Glazers are looking for, would mean Zilliakus would need around 325million United fans to help fund his 50/50 ownership model.

 

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