Manchester United co-owner Avram Glazer is presently in Saudi Arabia amid rumours the Americans could be set to sell the club to Saudi Arabia’s royal family for a reported £4 billion ($5.1bn) .
Last month reports emerged that Crown Prince Mohammad – second in command to King Salman – wanted to make his mark in the world of football and viewed Glazer-owned United as the perfect acquisition. United sources insisted the club is not for sale with the Saudi royal family keen to do business with the Glazer family to rival Abu Dhabi’s ownership of Manchester City.
Glazer’s recent whereabouts have also fuelled rumours of an imminent sale though, with him spending a large chunk of his time in the Middle East.
He has now been spotted on social media once again in the Gulf state, this time at a meeting with a gentleman identified as Moh. Abosak in Riyadh, the country’s capital. Glazer is in the country to attend and speak at the MISK global forum, a two-day event that ‘brings young leaders, creators and thinkers together with established global innovators’. The Red Devils already have a connection with the oil-rich Gulf state after announcing a strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority last year.
However, it’s understood the American owners have no wish to sell a club they bought in 2005 for £790m, even though United are now valued at between £3bn and £4bn. The Glazers sold two per cent of the club’s shares with limited voting rights in August last year, and may be interested in selling more to the Saudis, but they are unlikely to sanction any deal that would dilute their ownership and control of United. The kingdom continues to face international scrutiny over the disappearance of a Saudi journalist.
The takeover rumours came after governments around the world piled pressure on the Saudis after Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Prince Mohammad, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. If United’s current owners were to sell the club, it would cost the Saudis more than £3bn – but there is a chance that the crown prince could instead just buy a portion.
Saudi Arabia has already delved into the world of sport with purchases in both F1 and WWE – and football is already part of a wider political battle between the Gulf States. For example, the Saudis, who severed all ties with Qatar last year, banned Qatari channel beIN Sports. Then channel BeoutQ, allegedly based in Saudi Arabia, apparently started pirating beIN Sport’s coverage of the English top flight.