TAMPA — The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, confirmed Tuesday that it would consider selling the Manchester United Football Club after 17 years.
In a statement on the Premier League team’s website, the embattled owners, who have faced huge opposition since they gained a majority stake in the English soccer club in 2005, said they are exploring outside funding that could pave the way for a potential buyout.
“As part of this process, the Board will consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment into the club, a sale or other transactions involving the Company. This will include an assessment of several initiatives to strengthen the club, including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment and expansion of the club’s commercial operations on a global scale, each in the context of enhancing the team’s long-term success of the club’s men’s, women’s and academy teams, and bringing benefits to fans and other stakeholders.”
Joel and Avram Glazer, who serve as co-chairs of the Bucs and Manchester United, said they would “evaluate all options,” including the sale of their stake in the team but also cautioned that there is no guarantee their exploration will result in any transactions.
“The strength of Manchester United rests on the passion and loyalty of our global community of 1.1 billion fans and followers,” the Glazers said. “As we seek to continue building on the Club’s history of success, the Board has authorized a thorough evaluation of strategic alternatives. We will evaluate all options to ensure that we best serve our fans and that Manchester United maximizes the significant growth opportunities available to the Club today and in the future.”
The Glazers fell into disfavor with many Manchester United fans as soon as Malcolm Glazer and his family became majority shareholders, buying the club for 790 million pounds (then about $1.4 billion). The biggest complaint was the debt taken on by the Glazers to finance the purchase, which was split between the family and the soccer club.
It was estimated that between 265 to 275 million pounds (around $327 million) were secured against Manchester United’s assets in a loan provided by three New York hedge funds.
During the Glazers’ ownership, Manchester United won the Champions League in 2007-08 and were runners-up in 2008-09 and 2010-11, but the team has steadily declined since.
Before the World Cup break, chants of Glazers Out and protests have been a constant backdrop at Manchester United games. But until Tuesday, there had been no indications that the Glazer family would consider selling.
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Earlier in the day, Manchester United also parted ways with Cristiano Ronaldo, presumably the result of his controversial interview with Piers Morgan on the eve of the World Cup.
Ronaldo, who is the captain for Portugal, said he felt “betrayed” during a 90-minute interview in which he was critical of the manager, ownership and younger players. He had been unhappy with his reduced role with the club.
The Bucs had no comment about the Glazers’ possible plans to sell the team. The family has always operated the football and soccer franchises separately.