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Glazer family ‘to relinquish sole ownership of Manchester Utd’

The Glazer family is preparing to give up sole ownership of Manchester United, with reports suggesting a partial flotation of the British football club is likely.

The Glazer family is preparing to give up sole ownership of Manchester United, with reports suggesting a partial flotation of the British football club is likely.

An initial public offering in Singapore, which could raise up to $1 billion, is reportedly being considered and could take place by the end of the year depending on market conditions.

The cash could come as a welcome relief to the debt-ridden club, which is currently forking out £45 million a year in interest on its deficits.

However, speaking to the UK’s Channel 4 News, football finance commentator and author of the Andersred blog Andy Green said he was concerned the money raised from the IPO would not be used to tackle the club’s debt.

“I worry, and I think it’s highly likely, that this money will go back to Florida to the Glazer family, where they have significant financial problems with their property business and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” he said.

Last year, a BBC Panorama programme, Man Utd - Into the Red, focused on the Glazers' ailing shopping-mall empire, which is run by its company First Allied Corporation. In the documentary, it was claimed the family was struggling to service its US debts, raising concerns about Manchester United’s financial situation.

Green told the programme that the Glazers owe almost £400 million on mortgages on 63 of their 64 shopping malls, with many failing to generate enough income to cover the repayments needed.

A report this week by sports news provider Goal suggested the Glazers are prepared to sell their entire stake in the Premier League club.

The Glazer family bought the Old Trafford club for £790 million in a controversial leveraged buyout in 2005, but it has since faced the wrath of fans unhappy with the level of debt United has been saddled with as a result of the buyout.

Despite its accounts for the year to 30 June 2010 showing a turnover of £286 million, the club had to re-finance its debt through a £500 million bond issue last year and now must meet interest payments of £45 million a year to service the bond.

This led to a green-and-gold campaign against the owners, with fans staging very public displays of their dissatisfaction last year.

Manchester United refused to comment on the IPO, while the Manchester United Supporters Trust said in a statement it hoped it would give fans a chance to own part of the club.

“This could be the beginning of the end of the Glazers’ reign and the first step towards a bright new future for Manchester United Football Club under the shared ownership of people who care about our football club above all else,” it said.

However, the group added: "Until we have more detail it is impossible to say with certainty what this will mean for Manchester United or its supporters.”

A group of City bankers and lawyers, called the Red Knights, attempted a £1 billion takeover of the club in 2009, but was thwarted by the Glazers' £1.5 billion asking price. 

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