Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Man U on Bid Alert after Irish Duo Buy Sky Stake ;Turf Tycoons Who Are Odds-On

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Man U on Bid Alert after Irish Duo Buy Sky Stake ;Turf Tycoons Who Are Odds-On

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBERT LEA

MANCHESTER United was on full bid alert today after Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB sold its 9.9% stake in the soccer club for [pounds sterling]62 million to Irish horseracing tycoons John Magnier and JP McManus.

The shares changed hands at 239p in an overnight deal through broker Goldman Sachs, acting for both the Irish and BSkyB. The deal takes Magnier and McManus's holding to 23.15% through their Cubic Expression investment vehicle.

City sources are split over the intentions of the two men. It is understood they are saying the holding is simply an investment.

Others believe it is a manoeuvre to block a bid from US sports tycoon Malcolm Glazer, who only last week increased his holding to just short of 6%.

At worse it could force Glazer - if he mounts a takeover bid - to pay top dollar for the shares, allowing the Irish pair to make a significant turn on the 11.3% they already held, acquired at less than 150p a share.

Vinay Bedi at United's joint broker Wise Speke said: "This begs some interesting questions if they [Magnier and McManus] are saying their stake is just for investment purposes."

BSkyB held its 10% stake in United as a hangover from its abortive 240p, [pounds sterling]623 million takeover bid in 1998, a deal eventually scuppered by competition authorities worried by the sport's dominant broadcaster owning the game's biggest club.

It later acquired shares in other clubs including Chelsea, Leeds United, Manchester City and Sunderland in a bid to get to the stable during the negotiations for the lucrative rights to show Premiership football.

This summer it received [pounds sterling]5 million for its stake in Chelsea.

A spokesman for BSkyB said: "We received a very attractive offer for our United shares. The stake was never a strategic investment."

Today's deal sent United's shares to a three-year high, up 133/4p to 2483/4p. …

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