Qatari Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani has submitted a new bid to buy Manchester United, according to UK media reports.
The chairman of Qatar Islamic Bank placed a second-round offer overnight, the Press Association and the BBC reported.
The offer is believed to be worth about 5 billion pounds ($6.12bn), Sky Sports News reported
Jassim, a son of Qatar’s former prime minister, launched the bid in February. A spokesperson for the sheikh said at the time that the bid was completely debt-free and made via Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation.
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British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe submitted a revised bid on Thursday as Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus entered the race to own the Old Trafford club.
Bidders were initially told they had until 21:00 GMT on Wednesday to submit new offers, but that deadline was reportedly extended.
One or more of the initial bids were understood to be in the region of 4.5 billion pounds ($5.5bn).
Such a price would make Manchester United, which have not won the Premier League for a decade, the most expensive sports club in history although it would be short of the 6-billion-pound ($7.3bn) valuation reportedly placed on United by its current US-based owners, the Glazer family.
Jassim and Ratcliffe, the founder of chemicals giant INEOS, remain the front-runners to buy United should the Glazers give up control of the club.
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Zilliacus entered the race on Thursday with a bid that he said would give fans the chance to own 50 percent of the club.
“My bid is built on equality with the fans,” Zilliacus, founder and chairman of the investment company Mobile FutureWorks, said in a statement.
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The Glazers have angered many United supporters by saddling the club with huge debts since they took over in 2005. They appeared ready to cash out at an enormous profit when they invited external investment in November.
However, they could yet shun the option of selling a controlling stake in the club as other parties are understood to be interested in minority shareholdings.
The Times reported US hedge fund Elliott Investment Management, which sold AC Milan for $1.3bn last year, has made a bid for a minority stake.
A first round of bidding took place last month, and it has been reported there are as many as eight potential investors in the club.
Won’t pay ‘stupid prices’
Jassim is bidding for 100 percent control, aiming to return the club to its “former glories”.
A source familiar with Jassim’s bid had earlier told the Agence France-Presse news agency that he remains confident his bid is “the best for the club, fans and local community”.
Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, wants to buy the combined Glazer shareholding of 69 percent.
The 70-year-old told The Wall Street Journal this week that he was not interested in paying “stupid prices” for one of football’s most well-known clubs.
Ratcliffe, who already owns the French club Nice, said his interest in United would be “purely in winning things”, calling the club a “community asset”.
He visited Old Trafford last week along with INEOS representatives, a day after a delegation from Jassim’s group toured the club’s stadium and training ground.
A Qatari purchase of United would boost the sporting profile of the Gulf state months after it hosted the 2022 World Cup, but it would also be controversial.
As the son of a former prime minister, Jassim and his bid have raised concerns over the potential growth of state influence in the Premier League.
Reigning Premier League champions Manchester City’s fortunes have been transformed since a takeover from Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, in 2008.
In 2021, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund bought a controlling stake in Newcastle.
Amnesty International has called on the Premier League to tighten ownership rules to ensure they are “not an opportunity for more sportswashing”.
United’s Premier League rivals Liverpool have also said they would explore the option of bringing in investors while Iranian-American billionaire Jahm Najafi was set to launch a $3.75bn bid for Tottenham Hotspur, sources told the Reuters news agency in February.
United are the fourth richest football club in the world, according to an analysis by Deloitte. They are widely seen as one of the most prized assets in sport.