Explainer

Who are the Glazer family who own Manchester United and how could someone buy the club?

The Glazer family at Old Trafford Credit: PA Media

Rumours are circulating about the future of the ownership of Manchester United with many fans unhappy with the Glazer family's involvement with the club.

Talks of a takeover bid or the Glazers potentially selling the club linger in the background of United's worst start to a season in over 100 years.

But who are the Glazer family, why do Red Devils fans dislike them so much and how could a takeover bid work?


Who are the Glazer family?

Malcom Glazer was the first person in the family to get involved with Manchester United.

He was an American businessman who was the CEO of First Allied Corporation. This was a holding company that oversaw his portfolio of companies, including: Harley-Davidson, Tonka Toys and Omega Protein.

He slowly built up ownership of companies in the media, gas and oil, healthcare and eventually - sports teams.

In 1995, he bought the franchise for the American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a then record $192 million. The club saw initial success, winning the Super Bowl in 2002.

At the turn of the millennium, Malcolm Glazer had his sights set on European football. At the time, Manchester United were one of the most successful clubs in the world, winning an array of silverware under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Between 2003 and 2005, Malcom Glazer acquired ownership of the club by buying out existing shareholders for around $790 million.


How did the Glazers buy the club and why is it controversial?

Manchester United were purchased by the Glazer family partially from PIK (payment in kind) loans from US hedge funds. These were paid off in November 2010.

Some of this money was secured against the clubs assets, incurring interest. United's revenue has been used to service this debt.

United fans protesting against the Glazer brothers

Fans argue this money used to pay off the debt could be used on other areas of the club, like buying players, upgrading the stadium or academy facilities.

The Glazer takeover also coincided with a huge increase of commercialism to the club.

Alex Ferguson was bringing success to the club Credit: PA Media

Though not unique to United, some fans were so unhappy with the ownership they formed a breakaway club. FC United of Manchester was founded in 2005 and still play in Moston today.

Since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013, United's fortunes have dwindled. Though employing a succession of Europe's most elite managers, they have not recaptured the form from earlier years.


Why are the Glazers unpopular?

There are several reasons why the Glazer family are particularly unpopular with United fans.

Before Malcolm Glazer became involved, Rupert Murdoch had failed with his own takeover of the club in 1998.

Murdoch's bid was unpopular because of his ownership of BSkyB (which runs Sky Sports) and some saw this as a conflict of interest.

Rupert Murdoch's takeover bid failed Credit: PA Media

Many fans also felt that they did not want their club to become a private commercial entity, when they felt United should represent its working class fanbase.

The conflict came to boiling point in April 2021, when Joel Glazer (son of Malcom) was heavily involved in the founding of a potential European Super League.

The Glazers at Old Trafford Credit: PA Media

This Super League would consist of Europe's top clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona, breaking away from their domestic leagues.

Fans resented this idea, saying it removed sporting competition and fairness towards smaller clubs.

United fans demonstrated their unhappiness with the Glazers involvement before a game against Liverpool.

Fans' actions stormed the field at Old Trafford, causing the game to be postponed.

During the protest, a police officer was left seriously injured and protesters gathered outside the ground and allegedly began to throw bottles, 'significantly slashing' one officer’s face.

Supporters' group The 1958 say it has now planned a protest ahead of United's live televised game, on Monday 22 August, again against Liverpool, to get their voices heard.

Protests outside Old Trafford

Fans will come together at the 'Holy Trinity Statue' of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton outside Old Trafford.

In a statement, on Tuesday 17 August, the group said: "Today we release our plans for the Liverpool game. A game that will have the eyes of the world watching.

"A game for United fans to come together and show the world our deep discontent for this vile ownership.

The Holy trinity statue at Old Trafford

"An ownership that is systematically starving and killing the greatest football institution in world football, for greed.

"We can not allow this to happen any longer! This is not about division, this is about unity. All United fans have the right to protest with the 1958 or individually.

"It is not about confrontation. Anything else plays completely into the Glazers hands."


How could a takeover bid work and who is in the running?

After United's very poor start to the season on the pitch, Bloomberg reported that the Glazer family are considering selling a minority stake in the club.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, one of the richest men in Britain, has expressed interest. Mr Ratcliffe tabled a last minute bid to buy Chelsea earlier this year but lost out to American billionaire Todd Boehly.

A spokesman for Ratcliffe, the Ineos boss, told ITV News: "We are confirming interest if the club is for sale."

According to The Times, the Failsworth-born chemical engineer would buy a stake in the club "with a view to taking full control if the Glazers welcome new investment."

Michael Knighton, a former United director, told ITV Granada Reports he wanted the help of Sir Jim Ratcliffe to force a hostile takeover from the Glazer family.

He said: "If we can smoke the great Sir Jim out to buy Manchester United my consortium will be punching the air because we've achieved what we want to do."

Knighton a bid to buy the Red Devils accepted in 1989 - but it never happened. However, he now believes he can get hold of the club, explaining that he has been speaking to three potential partners to put forward a deal.

"They are small-time billionaires that I have been speaking to for three to four months now", Knighton explains.

"When I was approached by some fan groups, oddly enough, saying 'look, our club is dying on its feet' would you please do something?'

"I made a few phone calls and I've been pulling this consortium together ever since."


What next?

It depends what happens on and off the pitch. If United continue their purple patch in form, with big stars like Cristiano Ronaldo remaining unhappy - pressure is likely to continue to mount on the Glazers.

Likewise, if a serious takeover bid is tabled, it may be considered.

For now, Red Devils fans will have to remain patient for clarity on the future of their club.