MANCHESTER, England (AP) — It’s the final day for serious bidders to step forward in the race to buy Manchester United.
After months of speculation and soaring share prices, initial offers need to be presented on Friday to merchant bank Raine Group, which is handling the sale of one of the most famous soccer teams in the world.
By the end of the day, the American-owning Glazer family will have an idea of how much they can expect to make on the club they bought for about $1.4 billion in 2005.
The price is now estimated to reach as high as $6 billion, with reported interest from Saudi Arabia seeing its value rise sharply as the deadline for bids approaches.
While Friday is described as a soft deadline, Raine and the Glazers will have a clearer picture of potential buyers before moving on to the next stage of the process.
So far, only British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has publicly confirmed his intention to bid for the club he has supported from childhood. But a move from Qatar is expected, along with reported interest from Saudi Arabia. Rumors also persist that Elon Musk could be among a list of potential buyers from the United States.
Ratcliffe, the owner of petrochemicals giant INEOS, announced his intention to bid last month and remains the first and only contender to go public. That is a shift in strategy from last year when he launched a last-minute bid for Chelsea, but was not considered because he missed the deadline set by Raine, which also handled that sale.
Ratcliffe, who currently owns French club Nice, said last year that he had no interest in another bid for a Premier League club after missing out on Chelsea and receiving little encouragement from the Glazers for United. But he would be a popular choice among fans because of his longstanding support of the club.
Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia are potential bidders via their sovereign wealth funds. And both already own teams — the Qataris run French club Paris Saint-Germain while the Saudis are in charge of English team Newcastle.
Qatar successfully hosted last year’s World Cup and there is speculation Saudi Arabia will bid to host the 2030 tournament.
Several Americans bid last year to buy Chelsea, with Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital eventually paying $3 billion for the London club. Rival bids came from Chicago Cubs owner the Ricketts family, Boston Celtics part-owner Steve Pagliuca and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson.
No American bids for United have been made public, unless you consider a Twitter post from Musk.
The CEO of Tesla, Twitter and SpaceX wrote “I’m buying Manchester United ur welcome” last August. And although he then pointed out it was a “long-running joke on Twitter,” rumors of a bid have not gone away.
By JAMES ROBSON AP Soccer Writer