Goaaal?


Cox, Rob, Newsweek


Byline: Rob Cox

Manchester United's IPO is no winner.

If Manchester United kicks off a public stock offering in New York this year, it will likely be touted as a triumph for U.S. capital markets. This is, after all, England's top soccer team, and of all the listing venues the club could have chosen, not least London's, it looks like Man U is coming to America.

But this apparent financial score isn't worth cheering like an extra-time win. While U.S. exchanges dwarf the competition in raising capital this year, there's a dark side to this distinction that investors should heed. Man U won't be choosing New York because Americans are gaga for the sport (just 1 percent of respondents in a recent Harris Interactive poll said their favorite sport was soccer). Rather, the Glazer family, which also owns the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will be taking advantage of the leeway America's listing standards offer companies to practice poor corporate governance.

New York's stock markets permit companies to sort their shareholders into different classes, allowing founders and owners to sell shares while maintaining control. In London, such a setup gets you excluded from key indexes. It's an aberration of democratic capitalism, which in its purest form gives one vote per share.The mechanism lets Mark Zuckerberg hold shares in Facebook with 10 times the voting power of those available to the investing masses. …

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