Ferguson NOT backing Red Knights takeover
Ferguson, who has baffled some and outraged many with his apparent dismissal of any money problems at United in recent weeks, seemed to show signs of cooling when he talked about United fans’ “right to protest” and indeed wear green and gold last week. It was also rumoured in the press that he would in fact support any bid, some said with his own cash.
However, there have been several stories today which completely dismiss any formal link between Ferguson and the Red Knights, a collective of wealthy business men keen to buy out the Glazers. They mostly include the telling line “it’s absolute rubbish. There’s not an ounce of truth in it.”
This is from The Times today:
Sir Alex Ferguson in no mood to back Red Knights’ bid for Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson distanced himself yesterday from the Red Knights’ proposed bid for Manchester United, angrily rejecting allegations that he had formally backed their takeover campaign.
Responding to newspaper reports that he had not only given the Knights his formal support, but had offered to invest his money in a takeover, the United manager said: “It’s absolute rubbish. There’s not an ounce of truth in it.”
A spokesman for the club added: “The Glazer family and manager enjoy 100 per cent trust in each other.”
Ferguson and David Gill, the United chief executive, had previously made much more ambivalent statements about the Knights, a group of millionaire fans who are trying to force the Glazer family out of the debt-laden club. Both men have reiterated comments made by the Glazers that the club are not for sale, but have steered clear of criticising the Knights’ leaders.
The Scot, who is a friend of Jim O’Neill, the Knights’ ringleader and chief economist of the Goldman Sachs investment bank, said last week: “I’ve no issue with the Red Knights. I know some of them, I’m quite friendly with a couple of them. If they want to try to buy the club, it’s entirely up to them.”
The comment followed an earlier statement by Gill describing O’Neill and another Knight, Mark Rawlinson, a corporate partner at the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer law firm, as “credible people”.
O’Neill, who has been given dispensation by his employer to pursue a takeover bid, is at a business conference in New York this week, so could be temporarily distracted from the Knights’ campaign.
However, it is understood that Goldman Sachs gave him permission to pursue his private bid for United more than five weeks ago, despite complaints from the Glazers, whose £500 million bond issue the bank helped to organise.
The Knights have now also hired an investment banker, Guy Dawson, of Nomura, to help to advance their bid. Dawson and Rawlinson defended the club against the Glazers’ takeover bid in 2005.
Fans’ support for the Red Knights’ takeover bid is gaining momentum. Yesterday more than 120,000 people had signed up to an anti-Glazer campaign being run by the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) that supports the Knights’ bid.
Last Tuesday MUST urged fans to sign up to show their backing for the Knights and quickly doubled the number of their supporters from 50,000 to 100,000. United fans are also wearing the green and gold colours of Newton Heath — the original guise of the club — to demonstrate against the Glazers.
The following from The Independent suggests that the Red Knights have done themselves no favours in the eye of the Glazers by dragging Ferguson into it:
Red Knights overreach with claim of support from Ferguson
There is a feeling among some who want the Knights to succeed that the number of messages coming from the camp at such an early stage risks undermining the plan in the eyes of fans. Last week, details of the initial meeting with the Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, one of the so-called Knights, and members of the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, the expressions of financial support that has generated and questions about the money needed to be raised have all assumed an air of great significance.
The Glazer family believe the so-called Red Knights, who are mounting a bid to take over Manchester United, have discredited themselves with suggestions that Sir Alex Ferguson supports the venture.
Sources from the Red Knights’ camp suggested at the weekend that Ferguson’s “backing” for a probable £1.3bn bid, which would be needed to wrest control of the club away from the Americans, represented a “killer blow”, but the club’s manager immediately rebutted such suggestions. The likelihood of him offering support for the Red Knights is highly improbable, given that the plan to raise money to buy out the Glazers is at such an early stage and the owners have insisted they are not willing to cede control.
I can’t help but think that the whole thing remains futile as long as Manchester United the business is built in such a way that it allows the owners to take out millions in fees every year. There is still no plan for how United fans can make the Glazers suffer in the short term so that Manchester United can benefit in the long term. Without the Glazers being hit in the pocket, which they’re not being at the moment, they have no reason to sell the club. Balloons and scarves might have done something to lift collective spirits but this tokenism needs to be turned into a boycott. So come on, make the call.