The Glazer family, owner of the Manchester United British soccer empire, plans a $1 billion initial public offering in Singapore later this year, according to numerous business publications, as part of a plan to cut debt that has fueled fan protest.
According to reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal, the Glazers — also owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — have hired the Credit Suisse Group to work on the transaction, which could sell off an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the team but leave the Glazers in control.
According to Bloomberg, United has spent the past few months examining ways to reduce its financing costs and raise money that could be used to expand its business. It also wants to acquire players that can help it fend off the challenge of clubs including Manchester City, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Chelsea, owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
Fans have protested against the team's U.S. owners even though United has picked up four league titles and a European Cup since they bought the team 2005. The club spends about $75 million a year to service an $800 million bond.
And although the Glazers have continuously denied any connection to their football franchise, Tampa Bay fans have frequently blamed the purchase (and subsequent debt) of Manchester United for the Bucs owning one of the NFL's lowest payrolls the past five years.
The 19-time English champion franchise reportedly chose the Singapore market because of the team's strong Asian supporter base, with an estimated 190 million fans in Thailand, Singapore and South Korea.
"The multitude of local events we run with global and local partners, and a prospective forthcoming tour of Asia in 2012, necessitate expanding our footprint both with people and office space," United said in a statement this month. "This is consistent with the huge appeal of Manchester United in the region, borne out of nearly 40 years of visiting."
United spokesman Phil Townsend said the club doesn't comment on speculation. Credit Suisse spokeswoman Vanessa Neill declined to comment.
In March, the team's parent company, Red Football Joint Venture Ltd., announced a record $170 million fiscal-year loss because of costs related to swapping a long-term bank loan for the dollar and sterling bond last year, and on lower income from player sales.
The Glazers bought United for $1.2 billion, and Forbes magazine estimates the team is now worth $1.8 billion. United says it's the most-supported team in the world, with a club-sponsored survey revealing a global following of more than 330 million. The Glazers' commercial operation, led by former J.P. Morgan banker Edward Woodward, has secured global sponsorship and licensing agreements that have led to annual revenue doubling to about 300 million pounds in six years.