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George Soros buys shares in Manchester United

21st August 2012

Influential billionaire investor took nearly 2% stake in football club’s controversial offering earlier this month

George Soros took a nearly 2% stake in Manchester United plc in the club’s controversial initial public offering earlier this month.

The billionaire was one of the first of the football club’s new investors to be revealed. His hedge fund, Soros Fund Management LLC, owns 7.85% of United’s Class A shares, or about 1.9% of the entire club, according to a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Manchester United, which went public on 9 August, priced below its expected range amid broad scepticism about the valuation the club’s owners wanted. It also made the identity of the eventual shareholders a matter of particular interest for other institutional investors.

The club is owned by the Glazer family, which has interests ranging from shopping malls to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team.

Soros is one of the closely watched investors in the $2tn (£1.3tn) hedge fund industry, and oversees about $25bn in assets, even after returning money to outside investors and converting his fund into a family office last summer. The firm now mainly manages money for Soros, his family and his foundation.

This is not the first time the 82-year-old has taken an interest in a football club. In 2008, he considered a takeover of Italian club AS Roma as the team struggled with debt issues, but later decided against it.

It is likely Soros was drawn to United because of the team’s lucrative media rights deals, said Philip Hall, a partner at New York-based investment bank Inner Circle Sports, which has advised on high-profile English Premier League takeovers including Fenway Sports Group’s acquisition of Liverpool.

“This could be a play by Soros on the strength of Manchester United’s brand and the English Premier League’s growing media rights,” Hall said. “The domestic rights are set to increase 70% for the 2013-14 season and the international media rights, set to be announced in late October or early November, are also expected to come in at a very robust uplift.”

Soros Fund Management did not immediately return a request for comment.

Soros’s filing came after Manchester United lost their first Premier League game of the season on Monday against Everton. But the club last week signed star striker Robin van Persie from Arsenal.

Manchester United shares closed down 2.7% at $13.06 on Monday, after hitting a low of $12.91 earlier in the day. They priced at $14 a share in the IPO.


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