Tampa Bay Bucs owner and fading family patriarch Malcolm Glazer, now in his mid 80s, remains out of the public spotlight after at least two strokes more than six years ago that slurred his speech and limited his mobility.
That hasn't stopped irate fans of Manchester United, England's globally followed soccer club, from fretting that both the team's value and ability to compete in the future will be pillaged by the Glazers. The U.S. owner has borrowed heavily off the team's value since buying it in 2005.
Protesting soccer fans even burned Glazer in effigy. He suffered another insult in May when news outlets reported his death — prematurely.
Last summer, the Glazer family took the Manchester United business public in an initial stock offering that now trades under the symbol MANU on the New York Stock Exchange. Its market value on Wednesday: about $2 billion.
Now come reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission had some heated exchanges with the Glazers for trying to hide the less-than-stellar condition of the soccer franchise just before launching its August IPO.
As reported Wednesday by Bloomberg News, what investors and fans did not see until a month after the team raised $233 million selling shares was the "owners' behind-the-scenes resistance to disclosing more transparent earnings data, details about Glazer's debt and what the IPO money was to be used for."
The SEC-United letters show seven Glazer family members still control the club after the IPO. The family saddled the team with higher taxes to evade potential shareholder lawsuits by incorporating offshore, says Bloomberg.
On Wednesday, the soccer giant reported a fiscal first-quarter profit, made possible thanks to a $42 million tax credit, along with a decline in debt. And big sponsors are lining up behind the team. Among them: General Motors, whose Chevrolet brand will sponsor the team's jersey for seven years starting in 2014 for the eye-popping sum of $559 million.
Manchester United claims it has 659 million followers worldwide.
That's a few more than call themselves Bucs fans — despite the team's brief winning streak and a franchise value now of just over $1 billion (18th in the NFL).
This season, the Bucs have had just one home game televised locally (against the New Orleans Saints). And they've had only two sellouts in their past two seasons.
• • •
Speaking of IPOs, it's also been a good year for the founders of the Outback Steakhouse chain. Outback, along with Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's and Roy's, make up Tampa's Bloomin' Brands. Bloomin' went from private to public this past summer, too, and boasts a market value of about $1.8 billion — a shade under that of Manchester United.
Last week, Bloomin' reported earnings that beat Wall Street expectations. As reported by Forbes magazine, one Outback co-founder, Bob Basham, owns 8.3 million Bloomin' Brands shares and enjoys a stake worth more than $125 million.
Now Basham is off building a new restaurant chain called PDQ Chicken.
Cashing in on sports teams and casual dining. Welcome to America.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]