Manchester United made a cut-price debut on the New York Stock Exchange yesterday after a flotation that has disappointed the football club’s American owners and enraged some of its fans.
Football is the world’s most popular sport, but the setback for the initial public offering underlines the limited appeal of even its biggest names for investors.
The IPO priced at $14, below the $16-20 range the club’s bankers had been seeking. It valued the 19-times Premier League champions at $2.3bn and shaved as much as $100m off the proceeds expected for the team and its owners.
The offering raised $233m, to be split equally between the club and its owners, the Florida-based Glazer family.
The loss of as much as $50m for the club will be a blow as it copes with a heavy debt burden and seeks to buy new players. United had debt of £423m at the end of March.
The 134-year-old club looked at listing in Singapore and Hong Kong last year to tap into its large Asian fan base but pulled out, blaming volatile markets.
A group of United fans who are campaigning for greater involvement in the ownership of the club jeered the Glazers.
“It would seem all the analysis of the true valuation was correct; the Glazers and their advisers were being far too ambitious – or perhaps greedy – and the true value of the shares should be around $10 rather than the $20 the Glazers were seeking,” said Duncan Drasdo, chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST).
“It means less money coming into the club to pay down the Glazers’ debt and, more annoyingly, the Glazers still take further money out of the club for their own personal means,” he added.
The trust is calling for the Glazers to sell up and allow fans to play a greater role in the club’s ownership.
The Red Knights, a group of wealthy fans including Goldman Sachs head of asset management Jim O’Neill, weighed a bid for United two years ago but were put off by the price.
The Glazers bought United for £790m in a highly leveraged deal in 2005.