Sensational revelations of previous murky Glazer dealings
I understand that a Red Knights press release will be issued tomorrow (Wednesday) making two points abundantly clear to United’s senior management and owners:
1. Any Glazer plan to remove monies from the club’s profits will be vigorously opposed by a blanket media campaign. This will show how the family owners have carpetbagging form, and why they need money urgently.
(Under UK company law, even private companies must account (if challenged) for any quarterly withdrawal of ‘extraordinary cash amounts’. This would be particularly relevant to both FA and FIFA authorities, the former in particular having been highly critical of the personal loans made to Glazer family members out of Man United cash reserves.)
2. The $1.5 billion price tag put on United is ‘a ridiculous overvaluation’ – but the Knights will bide their time: they have no intention of going away.
This will come as a slap across the face to Manyoo Chairman David Gill, who told the media last week that the anti-Glazer movement is ‘waning’. Gill insisted that the opposition to the Glazers among Manchester United supporters came from a minority, and that many of the fans wearing the green and gold scarves “were doing no more than making a fashion statement”. The reaction of most United fans to this would be, in the true Slog tradition, “Bollocks!”
Said a senior player in the Red Knights when The Slog put to him the rumour about Glazer money-removal intentions:
“That is exactly what they plan to do, make no mistake about it. They have a pit of over-leveraged junk-collateral debt to honour, and they plan to use this to chuck money into that pit. They have form on this, but we’re ready for them.”
Other Red Knights dismissed the idea of Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill backing away from the campaign as “more Gill spin rubbish”. This source continued:
“Jim told Goldman not to back the bond issue and he was ignored. If push came to shove he would choose United, no danger.”
O’Neill has been a vocal critic of the bond-issue attempt to raise yet more money – effectively for Glazer debt repayment, not the purchase of world-beating players. Associates of the Goldman executive suggested last week that while he has given his word not to make public anti-Glazer statements, he will not back off from his leading role in Red Knights bid activity and financial analysis.
“Goldman do very little for the Glazer family anyway” an informed source confirmed today. As The Slog reported last week, it seems likely that O’Neill remains a vital public figure countering the firm’s beleaguered PR profile.
“The point is” alleged our senior Red Knight source, “The Glazer family has form when it comes to hyping their collateral. It’s likely they may have hugely overstated the worth they had in making the original 2004 bid anyway”.
The Slog’s US researches and sources support this contention. In 2004, sudden near-unfeasible rises occurred in the stock of two companies (Zapata and Omega) controlled by Malcolm Glazer and his family – rises that increased the value of their stake by some $50 million. These rises were probed by the Securities & Exchange Commission. The rises were the result of what Business Week at the time called ‘curious buyout offers coinciding with the Glazers’ accumulation of Manchester United shares’.
Equally, the SEC confirmed in 2004 that it was ‘looking into these mysterious leaps in price’. The general view of informed American opinion leaders was that a degree of conduit bidding for their own companies lay behind this fortuitous rise in the valuation of Glazer family worth. Respected US analyst Tim Ramsey observed on the record that he had “assumed both offers came from blatant stock manipulators”.
Surprisingly inbred purchases do keep cropping up in the Glazer family history. An aborted attempt to buy Houlihan’s Restaurants Inc. by the Glazer-controlled Zapata in 1995 came to grief on objections to the fact that the Glazers were enriching themselves at the expense of Zapata shareholders. The damning evidence forcing folks to this regrettable conclusion was based on the immutable fact that the owners of Houlihan were….the Glazer family.
But the ultimate losers in this saga have been United’s loyal fans, who have seen their season ticket prices rise – alongside obligatory £200 ‘parking charges’ they must pay in order to renew season ticket membership.
“The Glazers know every trick in the book when it comes to milking the brand” an Old Trafford insider told The Slog last week. On surveying the facts, it’s hard to avoid this conclusion.
The Football Association needs to ask itself whether it needs much stricter rules on who owns Premiership soccer clubs. This won’t happen of course, because the old blokes in FA headquarters remain dazzled by the vast monies pouring into the game – and they take at best an insouciant attitude to Club business models that would be more at home on catwalks than pacing the halls of commerce.
In the meantime, it is clear that United Chairman David Gill’s smug assumption of safety from Red Knights bearing sharp lances is very badly misinformed.