United Saddened By Glazer’s Death

Manchester United officials have expressed sadness at the passing of owner Malcolm Glazer, 86, but the Premier League soccer club’s website has fallen short of the glowing tribute posted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL franchise his family also owns.

It was The Buccaneers website that first announced Glazer’s death, describing him as a “a pioneering thinker” and “a dynamic business leader,” while United’s noticeably less effusive tribute appeared to reflect the mixed feelings his nine-year stewardship of the club has caused.

“The thoughts of everyone at United are with the family tonight,” it said.

Glazer had been in poor health since suffering two strokes in April 2006. While United’s officials were expressing their sadness at his passing May 28, some fans took to social networks appearing to celebrate the fact he’s gone.

The Glazer family was far from universally popular at United since fans realized that the debt incurred by its 2005 £790 million leveraged buyout of the club was going to cost more than £36 million per year to service – roughly equal to the club’s annual profit after amortisation of player values.

United became the first Premier League club to be owned by Americans, although Aston Villa, Liverpool, Sunderland and Arsenal have since followed suit.

During Glazer’s nine years as owner, a period that has produced five Premier League titles and a European Champions League win in 2008, the club has spent close to £700 million on interest and other costs related to debt. That’s more than Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the Abu Dhabi Royal Family, the owners of big-spending arch rivals Manchester City, the current Premier League champions, have spent on buying new players.

Glazer’s death is unlikely to change the setup at United. He reportedly hasn’t set foot in the club’s Old Trafford stadium since the 2005 buyout. His sons Joel and Avram have pretty well run the show as co-chairmen since the family took over and United is 90 percent owned by them and their siblings, Bryan, Kevin, Edward and Darcie.

The other 10 percent is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The Glazers’ ongoing financial problems are made worse by United’s very poor season by its own high standards, finishing seventh in the Premier League and failing to qualify for the money-spinning European Champions League. Former manager David Moyes, who was sacked after only 10 months in charge, was made the scapegoat.

The cost of sacking Moyes and failing to qualify for the European competition is reckoned to be about £50 million. This means there’s the ongoing servicing of the debt at a time when lucrative European TV rights are no longer forthcoming. Also, new manager Louis van Gaal – currently manager of the Dutch national team – will likely want at least £100 million to put matters right on the pitch.