Marshall Wace Founder Behind Manchester United Bid

Mar 3 2010 | 1:25pm ET

The founder of London hedge fund giant Marshall Wace Asset Management’s heart lies 150 miles north, in the hallowed halls of Old Trafford. And now Paul Marshall is joining an effort to save the soccer team he loves, Manchester United Football Club, with an unsolicited and highly unwelcome ownership bid.

Marshall is part of a group of financiers—calling themselves the “Red Knights”—that are exploring the possibility of buying the Premiership’s most decorated club. Any bid “would require the involvement and support of Manchester United supporters world-wide,” the group has said.

Support from the fans has certainly been lacking for Man U’s current owners, the Glazer family. The Americans, who have owned the team since 2005, have been heavily criticized for piling more than US$1 billion in debut on the club and have seen a variety of highly-publicized protests against their stewardship by Man  U’s hundreds of millions of fans. But the family, which also owns the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have vowed to hold onto the soccer team.

The Red Knights haven’t actually approached the Glazers. But several aspects of their potential bid for the team—which is worth about US$1.3 billion—have already emerged.

Among them is a so-called “golden share” in the team for fans which would give them the right to approve—or reject—any future owners. And the Red Knights are each looking to invest only “a handful of millions each,” the Financial Times reports, while seeking an “anchor investment” of at least £500 million from a third-party. Marshall is said to want fans to own up to one-quarter of the club. The Red Knights have also been in talks with the Manchester United Supporters Trust.

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