Manchester United have been put up for sale by the Glazer family – and F1 legend Lewis Hamilton has already created headlines by refusing to rule out joining a future takeover bid for the Old Trafford club.
The maligned Americans have finally signalled their intent to sell United after 17 years dominated by vociferous protests and declining standards that transferred from board level to the pitch. And the Glazers are now said to be demanding a world record fee for a sports club.
Billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a lifelong United fan, has been touted as a potential buyer after previously stating his interest in a takeover bid. Ineos founder Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, has a 33% stake in Hamilton’s Mercedes team and shares a close business relationship with the seven-time F1 champion.
And Hamilton, who joined an unsuccessful rival consortium bid to Ratcliffe in purchasing Chelsea this summer, has previously claimed he would not be against joining Ratcliffe in pursuing a takeover of United.
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In September, when fan anger was particularly rife against the Glazers, Hamilton remarkably refused to deny claims he could have future involvement if a bid was put together.
He said: “It’s the first time I’ve heard of it, so I haven’t had time to catch up with Jim since I was in Namibia, which I need to do because he goes to Namibia quite often. Jim’s part boss but partner – I’d say we’re more partners because we’re in this together, and I hope in future to do something with Jim and build with him. I don’t know where that will be or what that will be, so I can’t really say.
“I haven’t had a call from him asking if I want to be involved in that just yet. But I do want to get more and more involved in teams because I really do believe in black ownership, there is a lack of it in sports. And black equity, again, there is a real lack of that.”
Hamilton is already part-owner of the Denver Broncos after joining the NFL franchise in the Walton-Penner family’s takeover in August. And the sale of United is likely to eclipse the £4bn fee the Broncos franchise was purchased for.
It remains unclear whether Ratcliffe, who also owns Ligue 1 club Nice, will put together a mammoth bid to take over from the Glazers. Ratcliffe’s only explanation for not launching a takeover bid recently was the Glazers’ stance that United is not for sale, but circumstances have clearly now changed.
“Manchester United is owned by the Glazer family. I have met Joel and Avram. They are the nicest people, I have to say, proper gentlemen. They don’t want to sell it,” Ratcliffe said at a Financial Times Live event earlier this year.
“It’s owned by the six children of the father. If it had been for sale in the summer, yes we would probably have had a go following on from the Chelsea thing. But we can’t sit around hoping one day Manchester United will become available.”