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Qatar reportedly considering a $2.4-billion bid to buy Manchester United

February 24, 2011 |  6:34 pm

Having landed the soccer World Cup in 2022 against all odds, and having splashed out $218 million to have its name on FC Barcelona shirts for the next five years, Qatar could now be attempting to pull off another unlikely sporting coup.

This time the target is Manchester United, one of the world's most successful and glamorous soccer teams. According to various reports in England, Qatar's royal Al Thani family is considering a $2.4-billion bid for the English Premier League club, having allegedly had an earlier $1.6-billion offer rejected.

Manchester United is 100% American-owned, with Florida billionaire Malcolm Glazer and his family having held the reins since their 2005 takeover of the club. Two of Glazer's sons, Joel and Avram, are co-chairmen of the club, while another son, Bryan, is a member of the board. The Glazers have insisted that they are not in negotiation to sell, but the rumors have persisted.

"United's followers detest the aggressive way in which the Americans took the club into private ownership," the Daily Mail commented Thursday in explaining why Manchester United might be changing hands. "They detest the debt. They detest the jacked-up ticket prices."

Another theory suggested by the newspaper is that Qatar might be involved in a bit of one-upsmanship with neighboring Abu Dhabi, "whose wealth has transformed United's arch-rivals Manchester City into title contenders."

The Telegraph, however, reported that the Glazers were about to "reiterate their commitment to the club" in a written statement that will be included with their upcoming quarterly financial report to bond holders.

Meanwhile, the BBC offered another possible cause for the sale rumors, reporting that "there is also the possibility that the Glazers have sold an option on the future sale in return for money to pay off" earlier loans.

Manchester United had a $1.9-billion value placed on it last July by Forbes magazine, which ranked it as the world's richest soccer club, ahead of Real Madrid, Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

--Grahame L. Jones