QATARI Sheikh Jassim was playing a bizarre game of “dare” with Manchester United’s sale agents as he effectively declared his own bid timetable.
While Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, handed in his revised world record £5bn bid 24 hours ahead of Friday’s 4pm deadline, Sheikh Jassim only signalled his new offer would be coming before the end of the weekend.
Sources close to the Qatari bid team were adamant that the new deadline set by US banking group Raine was “fluid” rather than “hard” and that there was no need to rush their offer.
But it comes as a further sign that bidders are growing frustrated by the perception that they might be being “played” by Raine and the Glazer family – who may still decide not to sell up at United after all.
While the nonsense of the bid by Finnish businessman Tom Zilliacus became even more apparent as he suggested Sir Jim’s Ineos and Sheikh Jassim should join his proposal, both the Englishman and Qatari are deadly serious.
In what appeared an expectation by Sheikh Jassim that he is the one bidder who can make the Glazers an offer that comes close to their £6bn valuation, the Qatari’s bid team made it clear they would conduct the next stage of the process at their own speed.
It comes after a week of claim and counterclaim which has left the two main bidders concerned that the Glazers have been leading them down the garden path.
Confirmation that US hedge fund Elliott Management had made an offer for a “small amount of common equity” in addition to being willing to provide financing for other bidders added to the growing fears.
An investment by Elliott could be used either to buy up a substantial chunk of the 31 power cent of club stock not owned by the Glazers, or to give some of the siblings keenest to sell their stake a lucrative get-out option.
The cash injection would also enable the club’s co-chairmen, Joel and Avram
That has added to the belief that the entire process could end up being an elaborate bluff and that Glazers might, after all, only be interested in pushing up the price of the club to create leverage for a loan.
By letting Raine know he will not be pushed around, Sheikh Jassim may feel he has made his own statement, although such an approach could leave the Glazers more open to the INEOS bid.