Similar to the Albertsons post, not a lot of original thoughts here other than the spread to the rumored takeout/private market value is too wide and could close shortly if all goes right. If not, the current valuation isn't too demanding.
Manchester United (MANU) ($3.25B market cap, $4.15B EV) is one of the most popular soccer/football franchises in the world. Since 2005, the English Premier League mainstay has been owned by the Glazer family (originally Malcolm Glazer, he died in 2014 and distributed his stake evenly to his six children) who purchased the team via a controversial (at the time) LBO that saddled the team with debt. In the eyes of Manchester United supporters, due to debt incurred, the team was forced to divert cash flow from improving the team/facilities to debt service. It took a few years, but the team's performance has suffered as a result, the team last won the Premier League in 2012-2013, a long drought for the storied club. With the influx of foreign money, especially from the Middle East into the Premier League, Manchester United is no longer the club with the most resources and faces stiff competition for talent, including from their cross town rival, Manchester City, which is owned by members of the UAE royal family. Again, in the eyes of supporters, the Glazers either don't have or won't spend the resources necessary to compete at the highest levels in Europe and ManU's millions of fans want them out. Pressure has built to a significant level, protests and criticism from the notoriously difficult British press, partially led the Glazers (who also own the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers) to announce they were open to sale nearly a year ago.
My primary concern with publicly traded sports teams is that they're almost always controlled companies with dual share class structures, probably rightly so as it would be potentially chaotic for the leagues if not. There has been plenty of ink spilled on how great of an investment sports franchises have been, the number of billionaires continues to go up while the number of marquee sports franchises (the ultimate status symbol) has remained relatively flat, pushing the value up each time one comes on the market. However, since the appeal to sports team ownership is mostly as a status symbol, the value in being the owner is being the controlling owner and face of the franchise. Team owners aren't investing in the team for the cash flow (there generally isn't much, otherwise that would anger fans, thus reducing the asset value of the franchise), in order to be the recognized as the team owner, a would be buyer only needs to acquire enough shares to be the majority shareholder.
Manchester United has a dual share class structure where the Glazers own 100% of the Class B shares and 4-5% of the Class A shares. Class B shares carry 10 votes, while Class A shares get 1 vote, giving the Glazers 95+% of the vote.
What happens if a buyer only buys the Class B shares from the Glazers?
In the original offering document from the 2012 IPO, the Class B shares automatically convert to Class A shares if they're no longer owned by an affiliate of the Glazer family:
Each Class B ordinary share is convertible into one Class A ordinary share at any time at the option of the holder of such Class B ordinary share. Each Class B ordinary share shall be automatically and immediately converted into one Class A ordinary share upon any transfer thereof to a person or entity that is not an affiliate of the holder of such Class B ordinary share. Further, our Class B ordinary shares will automatically convert into shares of our Class A ordinary shares upon the date when holders of all Class B ordinary shares cease to hold Class B ordinary shares representing, in the aggregate, at least 10% of the total number of Class A and Class B ordinary shares outstanding.
But given the above Excel snip, even if the Class B shares were fully converted to Class A shares, a buyer of the Class B would still have a majority of the economic ownership and the vote. This is the primary risk one has to get comfortable with in this sale situation, that MANU shareholders might not see the same economic benefit as the Glazers (the Glazers could also get a premium for the Class B over the Class A). This is not a situation where a buyer would be potentially acquiring a majority voting stake for less than a majority economic stake that could be challenged in court.
However, the good news is the leader bidder, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani ("Sheikh Jassim") of the Qatari royal family (brother of the Emir of Qatar), wants to buy the entire club outright for a reported £6B or ~$7.5B. Subtracting out the $900MM in debt, that's roughly ~$40/share, about double where shares trade today, around ~$20/share for the Class A.
Why does it trade at such a wide spread to the rumor deal price?
- The Glazers appear reluctant to sell (the process has almost dragged on a year, there's some deal fatigue here) and have been reported to be looking for a £7-10B price tag. If they don't get it, they're willing to wait a couple years (could be a negotiating tactic) until new media rights packages have been signed, the FIFA Club World Cup expansion is closer and other bidders emerge.
- The other bidder, British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe (a big ManU supporter) has bid between £5-5.5B for just more than 50% of the shares (the initial risk outlined) that would also potentially keep the Glazers involved in the club.