Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, chairman of one of Qatar’s largest banks, has confirmed his foundation will make a bid for Manchester United.
BBC Sport understands Ineos, owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is also making a formal bid ahead of a “soft deadline” of 22:00 GMT on Friday.
Billionaire Ratcliffe already owns Expressed interest in buying Manchester United.
The Glazer family, which bought Manchester United in 2005, are considering a sale as they “explore strategic options”.
Sheikh Jassim’s Qatar consortium said: “The bid is planned to bring the club back to its former glory.
“The bid will be entirely debt-free through Sheikh Jassim’s Ninety Two Foundation, which will invest in the football team, training centre, stadium and wider infrastructure, fan experience and community supported by the club.
“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United to be known for football excellence and to be regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”
Ineos has yet to issue a statement, but it is understood the proposal will emphasize that Manchester-born Ratcliffe will be the “English guardian of the club” and aim to “return Manchester to United”.
Ineos, owned by 70-year-old British billionaire Ratcliffe, has a history of investing in sports and owns Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss club Lausanne.
Its sports portfolio also includes high-profile sailing team Ineos Britannia – led by Sir Ben Ainslie – which is aiming to win the 2024 America’s Cup for Great Britain.
Ineos also entered into a five-year partnership with the Formula 1 Mercedes team and took over UK-based Team Sky in 2019.
Known as a lifelong Manchester United fan, Sheikh Jassim is the chairman of Qatari bank QIB and the son of the former prime minister of Qatar.
His consortium has not given any details of the amount they are proposing to buy the club for.
The U.S. is also expected to receive at least two offers, while Saudi Arabia has also expressed interest.
That means up to five parties could try to negotiate a full sale, while others want smaller investments in exchange for a partial stake in the 20-time English league champions.
Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Khelaifi will be a key figure in any bid for Qatar ownership, even though he may not be directly involved with the club.
Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), led by Al-Khelaifi, has been exploring the possibility of acquiring a small stake in a Premier League club.
However, due to UEFA’s rules prohibiting multiple club ownership, any full Qatari takeover of United would have to be done through private or different organisations.
The prospect of Qatar investing in Premier League clubs – and the two major European teams owned by the Gulf state – attracted attention In human rights and the LGBTQ+ community.
Simon Stone on BBC Sport
Discussions about dual ownership of football clubs, and the potential conflict of interest between Qatar’s possible takeover of Manchester United and their current ownership of Paris Saint-Germain, are playing out in an odd way in the Gulf state.
They estimate that half of the clubs in the Premier League are involved in dual ownership of one type or another.
Manchester City’s presence in the City Football Group is an example. West Ham part-owner Daniel Kretinski is also chairman of Sparta Prague, who, like West Ham, played in last season’s Europa League.
They have also noted Ratcliffe’s interest in buying United and there is no sign he will relinquish control of French club Nice, who are fourth in European qualifying.
Furthermore, RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg have been sanctioned by UEFA for the same European competition.
Given that PSG president Nasser al-Khelaifi is also president of the European Club Association, which is working increasingly closely with UEFA, it is fair to assume that any potential problem areas have been addressed.
However, sources insist the bid is entirely independent of PSG’s ownership. It is also emphasized that bids are indicative. According to sources, the data provided by United’s “data room” was disappointing.
Full details on the club’s finances at Old Trafford must now be given.
This is seen as the beginning rather than the end of the process, however, with plans to invest in the wider Trafford area also in place, Sheikh Jassim is serious about taking the club out of the Glazer family’s control for the first time since 2005 years since.
Concerns about Qatar’s involvement
Human rights group Fair Square wrote to UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin on Thursday, copying Premier League chief Richard Masters, “highlighting several serious concerns” following reports that the “conflict with Qatar Government-linked entities are proposing bids that would allow them to take a controlling stake in Manchester United.”
The letter continued: “Under UEFA’s rules designed to protect the integrity of its competitions, we will urge UEFA to present a clear public position prohibiting any takeover of this nature.
“Any consortium of Qatari investors capable of making such an acquisition cannot convincingly demonstrate their independence from the Qatari government.”
Manchester United LGBTQ+ supporters group Rainbow Devils said on Friday: “Rainbow Devils believes that any bidder seeking to buy Manchester United must commit to making football a sport for everyone, including LGBTQ+ supporters, players and staff.
“We are therefore deeply concerned about some of the tenders that are in progress. With this in mind, we are closely monitoring the current process.”
A precedent for the Premier League is the Saudi Arabia-backed £305m takeover of Newcastle United in 2021, which was completed only after the league received “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi government would not take control of the club.
UEFA declined to comment, but recently expressed concern about the potential “significant threat” to the integrity of club competition from multi-club ownership.
In 2017, however, UEFA allowed RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig to play in the Champions League despite both clubs being closely linked with drinks giant Red Bull.
How much will Manchester United cost?
Chelsea was sold last year Offered for £4.25bn to a consortium led by US investor Todd Boehly Football finance expert Kieran Maguire believes Manchester United will be worth around £5bn.
Maguire told BBC News: “Since Glazer’s announcement, we’ve seen the Manchester United share price more than double in the last few months.”
“The shares are currently worth about £3.8 billion, and with debt we’re probably at four and a half times. You need to convince people to sell, so I think if you asked for a price Razer would be seven or eight billion. But I think Quotes are more likely to be in the range of five or just over five.
“United claim to have 1.1 billion fans worldwide, but if you do the math, it’s 500 million, so they’re actually getting 50p a year per fan.
“You just have to double it and if you can make £1 a year per fan then as soon as you get the costs under control Manchester United can suddenly become a £1 billion a year business.
“By cost we’re really referring to the wages of the players, and then Manchester United went from being a business that basically broke even to one that was very profitable and good returns for investors.”
What’s happening now?
Neither Raine Group of the United States, which is tasked with finding a new owner or investors, nor United are likely to make an official statement once the deadline passes.
A full sale will be decided by the Glazer family. Co-chairs Joel and Avi Glazer have been seen as the family members most interested in retaining some interest.
The initial aim was to reach a deal by the end of March, but there was confidence from the start that it would be done by the end of the season.
None of the United officials have spoken publicly about the process, but in order of priority, chief executive Richard Arnold will answer investors’ questions when the club reports its second-quarter results sometime next month.