Glazer family tried to hide Manchester United finances ahead of stock market flotation

The owner of the Old Trafford club attempted to resist further investigation by a US financial department into the club's intentions before their Initial Public Offering in August
Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer reportedly attempted to cover up the full extent of the club's finances before their high-profile public flotation on the stock market

Letters between club executives and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reveal the owner's attempts to keep the risky nature of the deal secret.

The Initial Public Offering (IPO) raised almost €190 million in sold shares for the owners, with around €87m of that used to clear debts at the club.

The SEC had to make several demands to the club to gain information on the ownership structure at the club, how being registered to the Cayman Islands affected potential shareholders and the full extent to the revenues made.

United officials, however, have denied that there was any tension between the club and the SEC throughout the negotiations.
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“As with every SEC filer, we went through several rounds of SEC comments,” United’s director of communications, Phil Townsend, told Bloomberg.

“Our interaction with the SEC was very positive and we look forward to many, many years as a US public company.”

United's failures on the field in 2011-12, which saw them eliminated early from the Champions League and lose the Premier League title to Manchester City were reflected on the balance sheet, with the club reporting a loss in its first quarterly results after the IPO.

The club had also come close to recording a loss in the two seasons previous, with only the £80m [€100m] sale of Cristiano Ronaldo, to Real Madrid, keeping the club's finances in order.

United “would have lost money in two of the last three years but for the extraordinary results due to the sale of a player [Ronaldo],” the SEC claimed earlier this year.

The SEC wished to know how much of a say investors would get in running the club's affairs, however, in a prospectus written up ahead of the flotation, United warned investors: “Our principal shareholder [Glazer] will be able to exert control over us and our significant corporate decisions.”

When the SEC requested information on the duties of board members, and their roles in the club, United were described as “a worldwide platform to generate significant revenue from multiple sources, including sponsorship, merchandising, product licensing, new media & mobile, broadcasting and match day.”