takeover race | 

Rival Manchester United bidders in race to sign up David Beckham for PR coup

Potential buyers target former Red Devils star for PR coup as takeover battle starts to heat up

David Beckham. Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Tom MorganTelegraph.co.uk

David Beckham has been asked to back various rival bids for Manchester United as the takeover race hots up.

In a sign interested parties are readying themselves for a PR war ahead of Friday’s “soft” deadline, the former England captain is among star names targeted for potential endorsements.

Beckham had signalled at the start of the process he would be open to talks, having become increasingly active in football investment in recent years.

As a result, Beckham was targeted several times in recent weeks ahead of a takeover race that now looks set to pit Jim Ratcliffe against American consortiums and Middle East investors.

Bidding teams regularly target so-called club legends as they attempt to win over fans as well as outgoing ownerships.

Industry experts believe Alex Ferguson, the 13-time Premier League winner, will also have been approached ahead of £5bn-plus offers this week.

However, it is understood Beckham has so far turned down approaches and will not be attach ed to any offer even if Qatar, who he works with in an ambassadorial role, emerges as a front-runner.

That has come as a surprise to those involved who had identified Beckham, who remains one of the most recognisable British faces in the world, as a long-term potential asset by bidders.

The 47-year-old, who played for United from youth until joining Real Madrid in 2003, finished his playing career a decade ago and is now a co-owner of Major League Soccer franchise Inter Miami CF.

At least four serious contenders have emerged ahead of a loose deadline of February 17 for formal offers via email. Senior dealmakers say Saudi Arabia is also in the frame, but the most serious Middle East-based interest appears to be across the border in the city of Doha.

A high-powered Qatari individual and other wealthy investors are understood to be seriously considering an offer independent of the Paris Saint-Germain ownership. Ratcliffe, meanwhile, has given his strongest indication yet that he has funding in place, having been working with two prolific investment banks for weeks. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase & Co are prepared to back his offer with bonds and loans beyond the value of United’s existing debt of £659 million.

Friday’s deadline for offers allows for the club to comply with instructions to have a deal completed before the end of the season. With that in mind, prices depending on Champions League qualification could be factored in. Formal bids will be taken for full buyouts as well as minority stakes. Ratcliffe has amassed a £6.33 billion fortune, but United have been uncertain whether he is willing to meet the asking price, having initially walked away from talks with Chelsea last year. Sources now confirm he has sought additional investment to table an offer that would dwarf any of his previous investments in sport.

Of Ratcliffe’s potential rivals for a deal, sources underline the Qatari individuals are separate to the Qatar Sports Investment group, which owns PSG. No such guarantees were offered when asked whether the investors would draw on any money from the Qatar Investment Authority, a sovereign fund worth £360bn.

The QIA’s chief executive, Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al-Mahmoud, declined to rule out a United deal when asked by an American broadcaster about investment last month. In the US, meanwhile, there is known to have been fresh approaches from groups who missed out to Todd Boehly and Clearlake in the race to buy Chelsea last year.

It is understood that the Ricketts family – whose consortium was one of the final four shortlisted Chelsea bids – will not be among the bidders for United, though.

A £5bn-plus valuation has been described as steep by the likes of Martin Broughton, but the involvement of the Middle East may prove a significant factor in deciding a ceiling on price.

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