Michael Knighton has admitted the main aim of his Manchester United takeover bid is to ‘smoke’ out a rival offer from the much wealthier Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Knighton went public last week with his plans to head a consortium he claims is backed by ‘good finance’, with the intention of presenting a hostile takeover bid to the Glazer family.
But now he has conceded his group doesn’t have all of the necessary resources to subsequently invest as they would need to as new owners even if successful in the actual takeover.
The 70-year-old retired businessman, who was last involved in football in 2002 as owner of Carlisle as they entered voluntary administration, famously attempted to buy United from former chairman Martin Edwards way back in 1989.
His £20m offer was accepted and he even introduced himself to fans by parading around the Old Trafford pitch juggling a ball. But the deal collapsed when his backers withdrew and Knighton eventually settled for a seat on the United board instead.
Knighton is a passionate United fan and in fresh comments has reiterated his desire to see the back of the Glazer ownership. Elaborating, he claimed that his backers this time are ‘small-time billionaires’ with whom he has been in talks since spring.
“They are small-time billionaires that I have been speaking to for three to four months now,” Knighton said of his consortium’s make-up to ITV News.
“When I was approached by some fan groups, oddly enough, saying ‘look, our club is dying on its feet, would you please do something?’ I made a few phone calls and I’ve been pulling this consortium together ever since.”
Knighton namedropped Ratcliffe when he first went public about his intentions, suggesting even at that stage the idea would be for the petrochemicals billionaire to put in a bid.
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Ratcliffe, whose fortune was listed in the 2022 Sunday Times rich list as £6.075bn, grew up a United fan but made a late attempt to buy Chelsea earlier this year. His INEOS company already owns Ligue 1 club OGC Nice following a 2019 takeover worth €100m.
Indeed, an article by Times journalist Matt Dickinson earlier this month was titled, ‘Sir Jim Ratcliffe has money and nous to rescue Manchester United from the Glazers’.
“We are not the great Sir Jim Ratcliffe. We do not have those resources. We are not some nation state sovereign fund who has oil revenue of two billion a day. The point is: someone had to make a stand,” Knighton went on to explain.
“If we can smoke the great Sir Jim out to buy Manchester United my consortium will be punching the air because we’ve achieved what we want to do. We will make the bid with our own consortium but, I’ll tell you this, we do not have the resources available to do everything that is needed.”