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Glazer family sells part of Manchester United in initial public offering

Manchester United goes on sale today.

The Glazer family is putting a chunk of the 134-year-old English soccer club up for trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The family hopes to raise as much as $333 million in the initial public offering.

The Glazers, who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will use some of the money to pay down debt used to buy the team.

The family will remain in control of Man U, much to the chagrin of many fans.

Here's what you need to know about today's sale:

Can individual investors buy a share in Manchester United?

Yes. The stock will be listed under the symbol MANU. It was priced at $14 per share, below the $16 to $20 price range that had been anticipated. You'll be able to buy Man U in the same way you could, for instance, buy a share of Walmart or IBM.

Will it be a good investment?

Some analysts say the team is overvalued. Others disagree. At any rate, the expectation is that many fans will buy a share or two, just so they can say they are part owners of the club.

"For the average retail investor, this will ultimately be more of an emotional buy," said Gerry Cardinale, a New York-based partner in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s private-equity group who helped the New York Yankees create a television sports network in 2001.

How much of the club is for sale?

The equivalent of a 10 percent stake, or 16.7 million shares, according to Bloomberg. But even after the sale, the Glazers will maintain almost 99 percent of the voting control, because the Class B shares they own carry 10 votes apiece, compared to one vote each for the Class A shares being sold in the IPO.

Manchester United chose a U.S. sale after scrapping plans for an offering worth as much as $1 billion in Singapore. The team has already received enough orders for all shares being sold in the U.S. IPO, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Has Man U been a good investment for the Glazers?

No doubt. They took control of the team in 2005 for $1.47 billion. Today, published estimates of the team's worth range from $2.9 billion to $3.8 billion. That latter figure would make Man U twice as valuable as any other sports franchise, about $1.9 billion more than Spain's Real Madrid, according to Bloomberg and Forbes.

Why is Man U worth so much?

Massive fan base. The team claims 659 million followers worldwide and 26.9 million Facebook fans.

Lucrative sponsorships. The team sold 2 million jerseys alone last year, and in total 5 million branded licensed products. It recently announced a $559 million, seven-year shirt sponsorship agreement with Chevrolet.

Tickets and TV. Broadcast revenues rose 14 percent to $181.1 million in 2011. Ticket sales rose 5 percent to $171.2 million.

It also helps that the team wins a lot.

I hear the sale is controversial in England.

You bet it is. The Glazers acquired the team in a leveraged buyout, taking the club off the London Stock Exchange and saddling it with debt, last reported at $656 million.

In 2005, fans burned Malcolm Glazer in effigy. This week, a group called Manchester United Supporters' Trust protested the IPO in an open letter calling for a boycott of products made by sponsors of the team such as Nike and General Motors.

Some fans think the debt has curbed the team's ability to add new players to support star Wayne Rooney. The Glazers risk further alienating fans by only allocating half the IPO's proceeds to cut debt. The other half will go to the Glazer family.

To justify the IPO price, "you'd hope it would be a bit of a growth story," said Tim Jenkinson, a professor of finance at the Said Business School at Oxford. "The Glazers' motivation is to create a vehicle whereby they can pay down the debt over time and extract money along the way, and . . . (still) maintain control. None of this strikes me as being particularly positive for the club."

What kind of success has the team had since the Glazers took over in 2005?

For the most part, the team has continued its winning ways. It won the English Premier League title from 2007-2009 and in 2011. It also played in the final of the European Champions League three times, winning once.

So why are fans still unhappy?

The club has been outspent by neighbor Manchester City, owned by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and London's Chelsea, owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is worth $15.1 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Last season, City won the English Premier League and Chelsea won England's FA Cup and the Champions League.

What does all this mean for the Tampa Bay Bucs?

The Glazers have always said that the finances of the Bucs and Manchester are separate. The Bucs spent heavily on free agents this past offseason, after several years of tight payrolls.

Compiled from Bloomberg News reports and Times wires.

Glazer family sells part of Manchester United in initial public offering 08/09/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 12:36am]

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