Gill confident of United growth
United, bought by the Glazer family in 2005 for about
?800million, on Thursday offered 16.7m shares – equal to a 10%
stake – at a price of 14 US dollars (around ?9) each before listing
on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, but there was little
price movement in early trading.
The offering was substantially lower than the 16 to 20 US
dollars originally proposed by its advisers – which would have
valued the club at ?2.1 billion at the top end.
Yet Gill said the arrival of the Glazers and the debt the club
subsequently incurred had not hampered the success Sir Alex
Ferguson’s men had enjoyed on the pitch.
And he pinpointed the example of their shirt sponsorship deal
with Chevrolet as proof that their growth revenue remained as
strong as ever.
“The level of debt that we’ve had at the club since they’ve
taken over hasn’t impacted what we’ve done as a team,” Gill told
Sky Sports News.
“We’ve won four Premier Leagues, we’ve been to the Champions
League final three times, we’ve had ongoing success on the
“We fully understand and the owners fully understand that what
happens on the pitch is crucial to us and we will make sure there
are sufficient funds to invest in the team going forward.
“We’re comfortable with the leverage we’ve had and we believe
that given the growth opportunity we’ve got ahead of us – for
example we’ve signed Chevrolet to a seven-year shirt sponsorship
commencing in 2014, which is over twice what our current shirt
sponsors make – we’ve got a lot of interesting and good
opportunities to improve our cash flow going forward.”
As trading started, United’s co-chairmen Avram and Joel Glazer
and Gill applauded from the stock exchange balcony, which was
adorned with the club’s emblem, while New York traders wore the
club’s trademark red home kit.
The lower flotation price comes after the Glazer family, which
also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football team,
previously failed to garner sufficient support to sell shares on
exchanges in Hong Kong and Singapore.
However, United, which claims to have a global fan base of about
660million and has won a record 19 league titles, is still one of
the world’s most valuable sports teams.
Although the listing has been planned for some time, the Glazer
family originally claimed all the proceeds would go towards
United’s debt, angering fans.
A successful initial public offering would reportedly result in
investors owning 42% of the shares available but only carrying
voting rights of 1.3%.
Trading under the stock market ticker Manu, shares rose but then
pulled back to stand still at the 14 US dollar mark.
Shavaz Dhalla, financial trader at Spreadex, said: “After
opening positively, possibly caused by smaller retail investors
looking to pick up a token share, the club’s share price slowly
began to retrace and drop early gains.
“Clearly, investors who are actually looking for a return as
well as a shareholder voting right are steering clear.”
Earlier this month, a leading Manchester United fans’ group
called for a boycott of the club’s expanding portfolio of sponsors
in protest at the planned flotation.
A statement from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (Must)
read: “The Manchester United Supporters Trust has today called for
a worldwide boycott of Manchester United sponsors’ products, with
support across the UK, Europe, Asia and the US.
“The boycott strategy is intended to send a loud and clear
message to the Glazer family and club sponsors that, without the
support and purchasing power of the fans, the global strength of
the Manchester United brand doesn’t actually exist.”