Manchester United forward Jadon Sancho takes a shot during the FA Cup match with Fulham on Sunday at Old Trafford
Manchester United forward Jadon Sancho takes a shot during the FA Cup match with Fulham on Sunday at Old Trafford © Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is planning to make a bid that would value England’s Manchester United Football Club at more than £5bn, a record acquisition price for a sports team, according to two people briefed about the plan.

Ratcliffe, founder of the Ineos chemicals empire, is competing against Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani for the takeover of the most successful English Premier League football club.

Both bidders are due to submit their proposals to the Glazer family, which controls the club, ahead of a 9pm UK deadline on Wednesday, the people said. The value of Ratcliffe’s bid includes debt. The value of Sheikh Jassim’s bid remains unclear.

Their bids follow a series of meetings with Manchester United officials at the club’s Old Trafford stadium and Carrington training facility. A full sale would beat the $4.65bn paid by Rob Walton, heir to the Walmart retail fortune, to acquire the Denver Broncos American football franchise last year.

Manchester United, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, has a market capitalisation of $4.2bn and debt of about $700mn. Shares rose 6.7 per cent in New York on Wednesday.

The Glazer family, which is advised by merchant bank The Raine Group, purchased United in 2005, in a £790mn leveraged buyout led by the late Malcolm Glazer that infuriated fans for loading the club with debt.

The Glazers were among the first wave of foreign owners to buy into English football, following Roman Abramovich’s acquisition of west London rivals Chelsea FC in 2003, as the international popularity of the Premier League attracted global capital.

In May last year, US investors paid £2.5bn to acquire Chelsea from Abramovich, who had sanctions imposed by the UK following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Months later, the Glazers said they would consider selling United as part of a strategic review that could involve raising capital or finding partners to invest in Old Trafford.

Several investment firms are also interested in injecting capital in exchange for a minority stake, people with knowledge of the matter said.

One of Britain’s richest people, Ratcliffe has expanded Ineos from chemicals into consumer brands such as Belstaff, a British fashion label. The group also owns a series of sports assets, including French football club OGC Nice, a third of the Mercedes Formula 1 team, and the Grenadiers cycling team.

Led by Dutch manager Erik ten Hag, Manchester United has climbed to third in the Premier League after finishing sixth last season and missing out on qualification for the lucrative Uefa Champions League.

Manchester United won its first trophy since 2017 after beating Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup final in February.

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