Manchester United supporters are planning to table a £1.25bn (€1.38bn) bid for the football club by June in a move that would lead to fans holding a majority stake, it was reported today.
The campaign to wrest control of the club from the Glazer family is being spearheaded by a group of businessmen, who have dubbed themselves the Red Knights.
The proposal, which is currently being studied by the bidders’ financial adviser, Japanese bank Nomura, would see 30 wealthy Red Knights take control of United through a newly-formed company, according to the Observer.
They would later invite fans from around the world to subscribe to new shares in the team.
It is understood that the takeover would effectively be carried out in two stages, with a view to giving fans a more central role in the club’s future.
The ownership structure would be similar to that of Spanish rival Barcelona, which is owned by its fans, meaning profits can be ploughed back into the club.
United fans have long complained that its profits are being used to service the huge debts taken on by the Glazers when they acquired the club in 2005.
Guy Dawson, who set up financial advisory firm Tricorn, which was recently acquired by Nomura, is leading the negotiations.
He is understood to have held talks with the Manchester United Supporters Trust, to show that the Red Knights are serious about giving fans a say in how the club is run.
Jim O’Neill, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, is one of the founding members of the Red Knights.
Investment banker Keith Harris and Paul Marshall, who founded the Marshall Wace hedge fund, are also said to be backing the campaign.
It is understood that several sovereign wealth funds have also expressed an interest in the deal.
Overall the Red Knights are thought to have 60 potential investors, including five individuals who are said to have offered to invest £10m (€11m) each.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported that two ’Super Knights’ were prepared to invest £500m (€550m) each in order to oust the Glazer family.
But the Glazers have repeatedly said they have no intention of selling the club.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust has been encouraging fans to wear green and gold scarves, the colours of the club until 1902, to show their opposition to the Glazers.
David Beckham recently wore won of the scarves when AC Milan played his old club.