English soccer giants Manchester United’s second quarter results for fiscal 2023 showed the club made a UK£6.3 million (US$7.78 million) profit, but there was no mention of the current sale process.
There were no comments from chief executive Richard Arnold within the release, nor was there a scheduled conference call – something that has been standard in previous years. The filing also confirmed that the Glazer family did not receive a dividend.
United’s revenue was down 9.8 per cent year-over-year (YoY) to UK£163.3 million (US$201 million) for the three months ending 31st December due to the impact of the winter World Cup and participation in the Uefa Europa League, with matchday income falling by UK£4.7 million (US$5.08 million) to UK£29.9 million (US$36.9 million) due to playing two less home games in the current quarter compared to the three months ended December 2021.
Despite the decline in revenue overall, commercial income grew from UK£14.3 million (US$17.6 million) to UK£78.7 million (US$97.3 million) in the same quarter. The training kit deal with Tezos saw sponsorship revenue for the last quarter increase by UK£15.2 million (US$18.7 million) to UK£50.4 million (US$62.3 million), along with a one-off sponsorship credit. Dropping down from the elite Champions League to the second-tier Europa League saw broadcasting incomes fall by UK£27.7 million (US$34.2 million) to UK£58.7 million (US$78.6 million).
A portion of that shortfall is made up by employee costs decreasing UK£20.4 million (US$25.2 million) to UK£77.3 million (US$95.6 million) and what is described as ‘squad turnover’.
The results also showed United’s debt is up to UK£535.7 million (US$662 million) from UK£477.1 million (US$590 million) the previous year due to the strength of the pound against the dollar on the underlying US debt of US$650 million.
United’s quarterly accounts also reveal that the club plans to pay back the UK£206.2 million (US$254 million) they owe in credit before 30th June.
Elsewhere, Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus insists United fans would be at the centre of his proposed takeover of the club.
Zilliacus, founder and chairman of investment company Mobile FutureWorks, has put together an offer that is being considered by the Raine Group, the firm overseeing a possible sale on behalf of the Glazer family.
The Finn, said to be a long-term United supporter, favours a ‘Nordic model’ that would see his consortium buy the club and then sell shares to supporters worldwide.
“It (United) was there long before all these people who are bidding for it were born and it will be here long after all these people who are bidding for it have passed away,” he told the I newspaper.
“The backbone of that institution is the fans and in that respect it’s hugely important the fans are at the centre of the decisions.”
Zilliacus says that if his bid is chosen, supporters will be given a say on major issues such as ground redevelopment and squad building, but not team selection.
Although an outsider and a latecomer to the race to buy United – becoming the third party to publicly declare an interest after Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani – Zilliacus claims his investment group should be considered serious contenders.
“I actually saw that the deadline was last Wednesday, literally on Wednesday morning and then I had to act very, very fast,” the former chief executive of Nokia in Asia said.
“I called the bank [Raine], told them we would like to participate, Raine said it was kind of late and they weren’t sure it made much sense.
“They discussed it internally and got back to us and said ‘OK, here’s an NDA [non-disclosure agreement], sign it then we’ll discuss the next steps after that’.
“We signed the NDA, put in a bid in general terms on Wednesday but then the deadline was extended to Friday, which gave us two more days to put in a revised bid, which had an actual number of what we were bidding, and that’s how it’s played out.
“I have been doing business all my life, I have started companies, bought companies, sold companies so I have a global network and I have done this on a global scale – first with the largest phone company in the world, Nokia, then with my own group.
“I have a network that spans the globe of people who want to participate in interesting ventures, and this certainly is one. To put together financing for something like this – and it is a big sum – is something I’m used to.”