The takeover has entered a critical phase after passing the third and final deadline for offers on Friday at 10pm. Both Ratcliffe and his INEOS group and Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani and his Qatari Nine Two Foundation submitted revised offers to Raine Group, the US bank overseeing the process for the Glazer family.
Ratcliffe might have the edge over the Qataris because INEOS’ bid is higher. The petrochemicals giant, which already owns French club Nice, are the only bid to value United at over £5billion.
That is short of the £6bn the Glazers are understood to value the club at, but is more than Sheikh Jassim’s group. The Qatari bid is close to £5bn but has some confusion surrounding it due to the promise of additional funds on top of the headline figure.
Another potentially crucial detail is that Ratcliffe has proposed an option whereby Joel and Avram Glazer could retain a minority stake in the club as INEOS takes over 50 per cent of the club, Mirror Football understands. While such a compromise would be hugely unpopular with supporters, who are desperate to see the back of the American family, it could sway things.
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Now that the third deadline has passed, Raine Group and the Glazers will deliberate on the options before selecting their preferred candidate. They are expected to announce their decision some time in the next 10 days. The selected group will then be given a period of exclusivity to negotiate a takeover.
Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim are not the only interested parties. There is another possibility: the Glazers could reject both and opt to sell a minority stake in the group to an investment group. Elliott Management, The Carlyle Group and Ares Management are all interested in putting in cash.
As part of the process for the third deadline, all parties were asked to complete a huge amount of paperwork. Among the details that needed to be provided was confirmation of the source of the money.
While that should not be a problem for Ratcliffe, who is aiming to buy the club outright with funds from his company, INEOS, it could prove more difficult for his rival. Before this process began, Sheikh Jassim was almost a completely unknown Qatari banker, but his father was not.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani is a former prime minister of Qatar. He is regarded as the member of his family and, as one of the richest people in the Middle East, may be the person who stumps up the cash for the purchase.