After accepting that he does not possess the financial wherewithal to bankroll a Premier League club, the Saudi Arabian confirmed last year that he is minded to sell his interests at Bramall Lane providing a suitable offer is received.
As this outlet revealed, three parties have expressed a serious interest in acquiring control of United since the collapse of Prince Abdullah’s talks with Dozy Mmobuosi; the embattled Nigerian entrepreneur.
At least one of these is based in the Middle East, with members of the USA’s sporting and business communities also known to view Paul Heckingbottom’s team as a potential acquisition following its return to the top-flight.
Those members of Prince Abdullah’s inner circle tasked with investigating the possibility of a sale are believed to value United in excess of £140m; significantly more than the £115m quoted to Mmobuosi while they were still competing in the Championship.
The figure, according to sources with knowledge of the process, has not scared off those invited to sit around the negotiating table.
At least one group – all of those discussing the possibility of a buy-out represent consortiums rather than private individuals – would prefer to barter, having calculated United need to invest millions in order to ensure Heckingbottom’s squad remains competitive and improve its training facilities.
Although Prince Abdullah is said to be making headway with all of those involved in what are still exploratory talks, none of his would-be replacements have yet been granted exclusivity rights.
Mmobuosi was but, after making a near £9m downpayment to secure these, it quickly became apparent that he was unable to provide the English Football League, whose jurisdiction United were under at the time, with the proof of funding they required to approve his bid.
After taking legal advice, United are confident that money, which Mmobuosi confirmed was paid to Prince Abdullah’s United World organisation rather than United themselves, does not have to be repaid.
Mmobuosi’s company Tingo has since become embroiled in a series of legal battles in North America, following a series of allegations about its business dealings by a group of financial analysts.
These include claims that Tingo deliberately sought to misrepresent its standing, wealth and activities in the spheres of mobile telecommunications and agri-fintech to its shareholders. As a result, a number of lawyers are preparing to file class actions in a bid to help many of those who lost money when its stock plummeted following Hindenburg Research’s report.
If Prince Abdullah decides to pursue a deal with the group from his homeland, it would have to prove it is independent of the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund (PIF) to be greenlighted by the PL. The PIF, whose new commercial partners Sela Sports were once viewed as possible United owners, now control Newcastle.
However, not all business arrangements with the PIF would raise red flags. Clearlake Capital, the private equity firm fronting Chelsea, oversees many of its foreign investments. However, CC were able to demonstrate that the PIF has no influence over its activities or governance, which satisfied a PL investigation into the matter.