Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Business

Under the Glazers, Manchester United and Tampa Bay Bucs in similar situations

As owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Glazer family sure has its hands full with coaching woes and struggling to figure out how to up the performance of its pro sports team.

If only the Bucs were the Glazers' sole challenge. Glazer-controlled Manchester United, the once-vaunted English soccer team, seems to be following a similar trajectory of poor play, low rankings and a head coach whose future is in question.

That's translating to double trouble for the Glazers, whose multibillion-dollar investments in two underperforming sports teams look to be in need of a jolt.

Forbes last summer valued the Bucs franchise at $1.51 billion, a 23 percent gain in one year despite an NFL-worst 2-14 record in 2014. This year ended recently with an improved 6-10 record, still bottom of the NFC South. And not enough to stop the Glazers from firing head coach Lovie Smith in favor of Dirk Koetter.

ManU, as Manchester United is known, may be less on the radar of U.S. football fans, but it has proved a more valuable asset in growing the Glazer sports empire.

The franchise is a publicly traded asset, recently slipping to about $16 a share for a total team market value of $2.6 billion. That's substantially more than the value of the Bucs.

But ManU has its share of troubles. The Wall Street Journal recently described the team's "demise" as a serious contender as one marked by "slow rot." And its second-year manager, Louis Van Gaal, is widely reported in the British soccer press as being vulnerable to losing his own job — barring a ManU comeback.

Here's what the same Journal story states: "Manchester United has played such stultifying soccer that fans used to chanting 'Attack, attack, attack!' are instead pondering the game's existential questions: 'Will we ever score again?' "

It is only too easy to substitute "Bucs" for "Manchester United," given fan frustration with both teams.

In 2014, ManU signed a big-buck, 10-year, $1.2 billion deal with Adidas, making the sport clothing giant the team's biggest sponsor. Recent reports indicate Adidas is giving a mixed review so far amid ManU's underperformance.

"Business with Man United is going well. We are selling more shirts," Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer told a German publication. "We are satisfied — even if the current playing style of Man United is not exactly what we want to see."

Give the Glazer folks some credit. They know how to keep leveraging business deals to reach more sports fans. The Financial Times reports that ManU is expected to become the first soccer club to launch a dedicated 24-hour TV channel in China as it seeks to tap growing interest in soccer there.

Can the Glazers spread their business savvy to hiring coaches capable of reviving their flagging ManU and Bucs teams? That remains the stumbling block of recent years in the Glazer success formula.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] [email protected]enturetampabay.

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