Red Knights set to drop United buy-out plan

Wealthy Manchester United fans are understood to have shelved plans to buy the club after they decided the price was too high.

Wealthy Manchester United fans are understood to have shelved plans to buy the club after they decided the price was too high.

The consortium of businessmen, dubbed the Red Knights, had been expected to table a formal bid of up to £1.2bn for the club before the start of the World Cup in June.

But they are understood to have put their plans on hold after the Glazer family, which owns Manchester United, are said to have valued it at more than £1.5bn, according to the Sunday Times newspaper.

The Glazers also insisted last week that the club was not for sale, saying they remained fully committed to their long-term ownership of Manchester United, adding that they would “not entertain any offers”.

The consortium is expected to make a statement on the future of its bid following a meeting in London later this week.

But the Sunday Telegraph reported that any move to shelve takeover plans would be close run, with around 55% of the Red Knights in favour of dropping it but 45% still wanting to pursue it.

The Red Knights, who include Jim O’Neill, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, are thought to have financing in place to back a bid, but no talks have taken place with the Glazer family.

They are understood to be determined to pay a fair price for the club, in the light of its high debts, lack of recent investment in players and rumours that Sir Alex Ferguson may be close to retiring.

Any decision to drop the bid will come as a blow to Manchester United fans, who have long complained that the club’s profits are being used to service the huge debts taken on by the Glazers when they acquired it in 2005.

The Manchester United Supporters Trust, which is organising protests against the family, had given its backing to the Red Knights.

It has been encouraging fans to wear green and gold scarves, the colours of the club until 1902, to show their opposition to the Glazers.

There has also been the threat of a mass non-renewal of season tickets by fans, who fear the club’s debts are threatening its ability to compete with top European clubs.

Figures released last week showed that the group’s debt reduced slightly to £520 million, although that sum does not include the controversial payment-in-kind (PIK) notes for which the Glazer family are themselves responsible and now attract interest at an eye-watering 16.25%.

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