Freshfields' Rawlinson on board as City financiers target Man Utd bid

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer London corporate head Mark Rawlinson is one of a group of high-profile City businessmen who have formed a group – dubbed the ‘Red Knights’ – in a bid to wrest control of Manchester United FC from current owner Malcolm Glazer.

The group met at Freshfields’ offices yesterday for an initial meeting to discuss the possibility of a takeover of the football club.

Issues on the table included assessing the viability of raising the £1bn-plus required for a deal, and putting together a proposal to offer the club’s owners.

It is understood that the group will look to drum up support from leading businessmen to raise the finance needed to make a serious offer for the club. However, the Glazer’s business is private and they are not obliged to accept any offer they receive.

The Glazer family has come under fire from supporters of late for the level of debt the club has taken on, with the Manchester Utd Supporters Trust leading a campaign for the removal of the family from the club.

However, a Glazer spokesman said: “Manchester United is not for sale.”

Rawlinson (pictured), a Man Utd supporter, acted for the club on US billionaire Glazer’s £790m takeover in 2005 and, as one of the UK’s leading M&A lawyers, will add weight to the group’s ambitions with his presence in the group.

Other members of the Red Knights group include: Keith Harris, the chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce and former chief executive of HSBC Investment bank; Jim O’Neill, Goldman Sachs chief economist and former Man Utd non-executive director; Richard Hytner, the deputy chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide; and Paul Marshall, the chairman of hedge fund Marshall Wace.

Earlier this year Man Utd launched a £500m bond issue, which was intended to finance some of the club’s debt. However, the issue was met with a wave of negative publicity and has subsequently traded at well below face value.

The issue handed roles to Allen & Overy (A&O) and Latham & Watkins.

A&O retained its position as Man Utd’s lead corporate adviser after advising Glazer on the 2005 takeover, while Latham advised a consortium of banks, acting as joint lead managers.

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