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The Guardian view on Manchester United up for sale: give fans a say in the future | Editorial

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The Glazer family’s leveraged buyout of the club was a sporting scandal in plain sight

The acquisition of Manchester United by the American Glazer family in 2005 was the most egregious example of carpet-bagging in sporting history. In order to buy one of the most famous and profitable football institutions in the world, the Glazers raised £540m worth of debt and then loaded it on to the club itself. Over the past 17 years, against a backdrop of supporter protests and a decline in performance on the pitch, the Glazer ownership has cost the club more than £1.5bn in interest payments, debt and other outgoings. The family have used Manchester United as their private ATM, personally extracting vast sums in dividend payments and “management fees”, and organising soft loans to their other companies. Their ruthlessly exploitative modus operandi has been a sporting scandal in plain sight.

Little wonder then, that United supporters are jubilant at the sudden announcement that the Glazers are now open to offers for the club. The scuppering of unpopular plans for a lucrative European Super League, along with the post-Abramovich sale of Chelsea to American buyers for a £4.25bn investment, appears to have convinced the family that now might be the right time to cash out. Earlier this month, the American owners of Liverpool came to the same conclusion, putting another world-famous English institution on the market. According to Forbes, United are worth £3.9bn, but that figure may rise dramatically in a bidding war. Early reports suggest the Glazers may be hoping for £6bn.

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