Saudia Arabia is allegedly lining up a takeover bid for Manchester United as the kingdom faces international scrutiny over the disappearance of a Saudi journalist.
Crown Prince Mohammad – second in command to King Salman – wants to make his mark in the world of football and views Glazer-owned Manchester United as the perfect acquisition, The Sun reported today, citing ‘well-placed sources.’
It comes as governments around the world pile pressure on the Saudis after Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Prince Mohammad, went missing from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul two weeks ago.
Turkish officials fear a Saudi hit team killed and dismembered Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia has called such allegations ‘baseless’ but has not proved the writer ever left the consulate.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is reportedly interested in buying United
If the oil-rich Saudi Arabians were to buy United, it would likely cost them over £3billion
Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post reporter who spent much time in the west, on holiday
If United’s current owners were to sell the club, it would cost the Saudis more than £3bn – but there is a chance that the crown prince could instead just buy a portion.
Saudi Arabia has already delved into the world of sport with purchases in both F1 and WWE – and football is already part of a wider political battle between the Gulf States.
For example, the Saudis, who severed all ties with Qatar last year, banned Qatari channel beIN Sports.
Then channel BeoutQ, allegedly based in Saudi Arabia, apparently started pirating beIN Sport’s coverage of the English top flight.
It is as yet unclear whether the Glazer family would be willing to sell the club. They have made no comment on the idea of selling since their arrival back in 2005.
Avram Glazer (second left) is said to have been spending a lot of time in Saudi Arabia recently
It is as yet unclear whether the Glazer family would be willing to loosen their grip on the club
WHO IS THE SAUDI CROWN PRINCE?
Mohammad bin Salman, 33, has been Saudi Arabia’s crown prince since June 2017 and is said to be worth around £850billion.
He is also the country’s First Deputy Prime Minister, President of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs and Minister of Defense. He was the youngest ever incumbent of the latter position when he arrived in office three years ago.
His full name is: Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud
Co-chairman Avram Glazer’s recent whereabouts have fuelled rumours of an imminent sale though, with him spending a large chunk of his time in the Middle East.
He is even due to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh next week, alongside leading bankers and investors based around the globe.
Manchester United’s current share price values the club at more than £2.5bn, which is slightly down from the record high of £3.1bn recorded in August.
It is understood that any offer to the Glazers would have to be significantly higher, given the earning power and global brand of the club.
Jamal Khashoggi, who was notoriously critical of Saudi Arabia’s new Crown Prince, entered the consulate on 2 October to get documents to marry his Turkish wife – but has not been seen since.
A Saudi source said on Monday that the Crown Prince has ordered an internal investigation of the disappearance.
A team of cleaners entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul today – just hours before Turkish officials will be escorted around by Saudis in a joint inspection over the disappearance.
Bin Salman met the Queen during an official visit to Buckingham Palace back in March
The inspection was agreed after a Saudi delegation of a dozen officials arrived in Turkey while Saudi King Salman and Turkish President Recep Erdogan spoke on the phone yesterday.
President Donald Trump tweeted today that he has spoken to the Saudi king on the phone who ‘firmly’ denied any plot to murder Khashoggi.
Speaking to reporters in the White House this morning, Trump said King Salman’s denial ‘could not have been stronger.
A team of cleaners entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul today ahead of an inspection by Turkish and Saudi officials
Trump said in a Monday morning tweet that he would send a top U.S. official, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to Middle East to confront Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in person
‘He said it very strongly,’ Trump said when pressed to say whether he believed the Saudi king.
He added: ‘It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?’
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Riyadh today, the State Department said, adding that ‘the president has called for a prompt and open investigation.’
It comes after oil prices rose following Saudi Arabia’s thinly veiled threat yesterday to cut production if the US imposes sanctions amid growing international tension over the disappearance.
Britain, Germany and France have jointly called for a ‘credible investigation,’ Egypt has backed Saudi Arabia and warned of ‘false claims’ against its ally and Australia’s foreign minister has said she is ‘deeply concerned’.
The Glazers are not universally loved by Man United fans and investment may be welcomed