QATARI Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani has enlisted US financial giant Bank of America to help decide his final valuation for buying Manchester United.
The battle for control of the Red Devils is taking a significant step forward with both main bidders at Old Trafford this week.
But Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim’s decision to include Bank of America representatives in his party when it meets the Glazer family’s chosen selling agent, the Raine Group, appears a significant step.
That meeting is expected to take place over the next 48 hours, before Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos deploys agents to Old Trafford for their first proper scrutiny of the club’s financial books on Friday.
The meetings were set in motion when the two bidders were approved by Raine ten days ago as having passed the initial threshold.
Both Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim, Britain’s richest man, are believed to have put in initial bids at no more than £4.5billion for the club.
Those bids are way short of the £6bn valuation held by the Glazers, and who may yet decide not to sell at all.
Last week, financiers Elliott Management, who are ready to fund any bidder but could forward cash to the Glazers themselves, made the trip to Manchester.
Three other hedge funds, Ares Management, Oaktree – which helped Chinese conglomerate Suning take over Inter Milan – and MSD Partners are also interested in becoming involved with financing a deal.
SunSport revealed last week that one option being considered by the Glazers was taking the club OFF the market and instead using outside capital to create a new company to hive off the club’s merchandising and digital commercial operation into a separate concern.
This would allow them to rake in money from potential opportunities from digital sales, video gaming and merchandise licensing that would be separate from what happens to the pitch.
Sheikh Jassim, a member of the Qatari Royal family, is seeking a full buy-out of the club.
Ineos, by contrast, wants to purchase only the Glazers’ 69 per cent controlling stake.
Both the public bidders – it remains unclear if additional potential owners do exist although the invitation to Elliott suggests they might do – are concerned about the increasingly tight timetable for any deal to go through.
Experts say the due diligence phase, including evaluating the true value of United, the land surrounding Old Trafford which could site its overdue replacement, the club’s training ground and the estimated £500million extra owed to the Glazers could take as long as two months.
Getting Bank of America financial experts on board at this early stage could provide a shortcut to the process for Sheikh Jassim and his team.
But with a deal completion deadline of May 31, ahead of the opening of the summer transfer window, the longer the process goes on the tougher it will be for any new owner to get things finished in time.