Billionaire former hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman has purchased a multimillion-dollar stake in Manchester United ahead of an expected deal for British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe to buy a large stake in the soccer club.
Cooperman purchased just over 900,000 shares in the 145-year-old Premier League club in the third quarter of this year, according to a regulatory filing, which are together worth just under $17.5 million as of Tuesday’s closing price.
The purchase gives the billionaire a relatively minor stake in Manchester United—there are about 163 million shares outstanding in the club, which has a market cap of just over $3 billion—and likely won’t impact the team’s operations.
Cooperman joins funds like Psquared Asset Management AG, which bought a stake valued around $24.5 million, Antara Capital ($30 million) and Eminence Capital ($17 million) in buying ManU shares since takeover speculation started late last year.
Shares of Manchester United closed Tuesday at $18.83, up 5.1%.
The family of late businessman Malcolm Glazer bought British powerhouse soccer team Manchester United in a controversial $1.4 billion deal in 2005 that gave them 98% of shares in the team. Their ownership has been tumultuous from the beginning—they were escorted away from Old Trafford in a police van after they were met with angry fans at their first visit to the stadium—and the family took the club public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012. The family and its holding company have been selling shares of the club ever since. Last November, the Glazer family announced its intent to sell Manchester United on the same day superstar Cristiano Ronaldo announced he would leave the club. He now plays for Saudi Arabian team Al Nassr. British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is reportedly closing on a deal to spend $1.6 billion on 25% of the club and take over control of the team after a Qatari group led by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani withdrew its offer. The deal would leave the Glazers in “some form” of control, ESPN reported.
Leon Cooperman founded hedge fund Omega Advisors in 1991 and is currently the 1,099th richest man in the world with a real-time net worth of 2.8 billion. He has said he plans to give most of his fortune away, and has been moving his assets into his charitable foundation. Jim Ratcliffe is the founder, chairman and majority owner of the Ineos Group chemical conglomerate. He is currently the 87th richest man in the world with a net worth of $19.6 billion. The Glazer family, which was estimated to be worth $4.7 billion in 2015, also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.