Rawlinson's Red Knights shelve Manchester Utd bid as price tag rises

The Red Knights – the group of City financiers which includes Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer London corporate head Mark Rawlinson – have put their billion-pound bid for Manchester United on hold.

In a statement, the group said that it was only interested in purchasing the Premiership club at a “sensible” price after news recently emerged that the club’s current owners had rejected a £1.5bn offer from a Middle Eastern investor last year.

The Red Knights, which also includes Goldman Sachs chief economist and former Man Utd non-executive director Jim O’Neill, launched its bid for Man Utd in March, aiming to raise over £1bn from wealthy supporters of the football club in the business community.

However, Man Utd’s owners, the US-based Glazer family, have repeatedly said that the club is not for sale, reiterating in a new statement last week (28 May) that they would not entertain any offers. The Glazers’ business is private and they are not obliged to accept any offer they receive.

The Red Knights said that media speculation has driven the club’s price tag up.

The statement said: “As we have maintained…we will only attempt to purchase the club at a sensible price, consistent with the long-term interests of the club. Persistent speculation in the media of inflated valuation aspirations has made our goals less attainable, as potential investors have strongly reinforced our views that we should not move forward at a price uneconomic for the future of the club.”

The Red Knights met at Freshfields’ City headquarters in March for its initial strategy gathering. Other members of the group include: Keith Harris, the chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce and former chief executive of HSBC Investment bank; Richard Hytner, the deputy chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide; and Paul Marshall, the chairman of hedge fund Marshall Wace.

The Red Knights bid came amid dissatisfaction among Man Utd supporter groups about the level of debt the club has taken on during the Glazers’ tenure as owners.

Rawlinson (pictured), a Man Utd supporter, acted for the club on the Glazers’ £790m takeover in 2005, while Allen & Overy acted for the buyer and the banks instructed Latham & Watkins.

Click here to follow Legal Week on Twitter