Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is exploring buying a minority stake in a Premier League club – with interest in Manchester United.
A full takeover of an English club is not planned at this stage but the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is exploring acquiring a stake that could be around 10%, Sky News understands.
The emir of Qatar is said to be a fan of United – and the owning Glazer family announced in November that it is open to fresh investment or a full sale.
Speculation today about a potential full sale to Qatar investors led to shares in the club jumping 14% in trading in New York.
But QIA is not believed to want full ownership of the record 20-time league champions who have gone a decade without winning the Premier League, with continuing fan protests against the Glazers.
The only publicly-declared takeover interest so far in buying United came last month from Ineos – the petrochemicals giant owned by Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Qatari officials have also held talks with Liverpool and Tottenham about investment.
While Tottenham has distanced itself from a sale to Qatar, the Fenway Sports Group said in November that it would be willing to sell Liverpool.
Qatar already has a flagship football ownership in French champions Paris Saint-Germain through Qatar Sports Investment.
Investments and European football regulations prevent two teams with shared control meeting in the same competitions.
QIA is a nominally separate entity from Qatar Sports Investments while both are funded by the energy wealth of the Gulf nation.
Qatar’s billions of pounds in investments in Britain
The QIA already has tens of billions of pounds of investments in Britain, including Heathrow Airport, Sainsbury’s and properties, including the Shard in London.
The successful staging of the World Cup has spurred Qatar’s interest in expanding its portfolio of sports investments, Sky News has been told.
Just after the World Cup ended in December, Qatar announced that its surplus for the 2023 fiscal year was budgeted at 29 billion riyals (£6.4bn) thanks to rising oil prices.
While United’s market capitalisation is just under £4bn, it is reported the owning Glazer family would be seeking a sale that valued the club at and above £6bn.
That would not only vastly eclipse the £790m the Glazers paid for the club in 2005 but it would exceed the £2.5bn Chelsea were sold for last year.
United fans have been vocal about demanding new ownership with the debt loaded on to the club by the Glazers costing more than £1bn to service in 17 years.
Concerns have been raised about underinvestment in the infrastructure around Old Trafford and the training ground.
The sale of United is being overseen by the Raine Group, which did not respond to a request for comment. There was no response from QIA.
When asked about investing in the Premier League last month, QIA chief executive Mansoor al Mahmoud told Bloomberg TV: “It’s a process that we go through. It’s a discussion that we engage in the management we have not made our mind yet but this is a very commercially driven decision that we go through and again sport is becoming a very important theme as well.
“People are engaged more in sport and digitisation is making it more attractive to investors.”