Manchester United looks set for a US listing, but the Glazer family is planning to keep a firm grip on the British football team.
The club is looking to raise about $100 million (€80 million) from a flotation in New York later this year, which will go some way to dealing with the its high levels of debt – it currently owes about £423.28 million (€534 million), mostly related to the Glazer family's controversial 2005 takeover of the team.
However, while the family will use the IPO to reduce the debt it amassed, the Glazers appear to have no plans to cede control, favouring a dual-class share system.
A prospectus, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week, shows the club will have two types of shares. Class As, made available to the general public, will carry one vote per share, while class Bs will carry 10 votes a share.
The family, who will retain the class B shares, will never have less than 67% control over shareholder meetings.
A listing in Hong Kong or Singapore, where Manchester United could take advantage of strong Asian interest in the team, initially seemed likely, but the club finally decided on the US – partly because of market volatility in Asia and also because of the dual-sharing listing.
“The NYSE is perhaps an odd place to list, as football is a minor sport in the US and London would have been the obvious choice. However, on this deal the Glazers keep control of the club with weighted voting B shares. Such dual share structures are extremely rare in the UK and unattractive to UK investors who want to be real owners of the club,” said Daniel Hall, mergers and acquisitions partner, and head of sport, at international law firm Eversheds.
The prospectus also issued a stark warning to investors. "Investing in our class A ordinary shares involves a high degreeof risk," it read.
However, it added: “We are one of the most popular and successful sports teams in the world, playing one of the most popular spectator sports on Earth.”