Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is set to meet Manchester United’s ruling Glazer family for talks over a bid for the club.
The Saudi king-in-waiting was linked last weekend with a move to buy the Premier League giants. Manchester United have since denied that there was any interest from Crown Prince Mohammad, but the Sunday Mirror claims today that a meeting is set to take place over a possible £4billion bid. Interestingly, the paper’s daily counterpart was this week playing down news of any potential bid.
The paper claims the prince is worth £850billion although that valuation appears to intertwine Mohammad’s fortunes with that of the oil-rich Middle Eastern state.
But the move may be political more than anything else. The Saudis have seen Abu Dhabi’s rulers buy Manchester City while members of Qatar’s ruling elite now own Paris Saint-Germain. In both cases it has seen the profile rise of the two states at a time of tensions in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia could see the purchase of one of the biggest sports brands in the world as public relations exercise at a time when the regime has come under fire. The Saudis are looking for regime change in Qatar; they are involved in a war against neighbouring Yemen and are embroiled in the controversial disappearance and murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Glazers have become unpopular with the Old Trafford faithful after loading the club with the debt following their £790million purchase of United in 2005. But United’s shares have risen in recent months as analysts mull over a possible bid.
Forbes magazine recently put a valuation of £3.2billion on United. Such figures have some logic behind them but at the end of the day the club is worth what its shareholders and potential purchasers value it at. Mohammad is said to be ready to add a further £800million to that figure in order to seize control. He is unlikely to saddle the club with debt meaning the annual interest payments of £24million to service the Glazers’ debt will end.