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Ferguson key in Man U’s financial transformation
Soccer » Under Sir Alex, United has become one of top sporting franchises.

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By 2003, the family of Malcolm Glazer, which owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, started building up a stake in Manchester United as they attempted to reap the rewards that came from the club’s preeminence in English football and the skyrocketing revenues from television rights and sponsorship.

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Within two years, the Glazers had built up a majority stake in Manchester United that eventually allowed them to take it out of public hands.

Many United fans have opposed the Glazer family because the Glazers placed a large chunk of the debt they built up while taking control on the club’s balance sheet.

In August 2012, the Glazers sought to refinance the debt at better terms than the prevailing conditions by floating the club on the New York Stock Exchange. Despite lackluster interest — the share price was floated at $14 a share as opposed to the hoped-for $16-20 price range — investors have grown more enthusiastic. The share price recently made a brief foray above $19 — not a bad return for investors who bought up the stock in the initial flotation.

Demand for the stock has gone hand in hand with Manchester United’s advance to a 20th league title this spring.

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United’s debt has been cut in half in the past three years to 367.6 million pounds ($572 million), according to the latest financial results. United also recently forecast record revenue this season of at least 350 million pounds thanks largely to its ability to attract an array of global sponsors.

Manchester United will also benefit from the TV rights to show its matches. Last year the English Premier League announced the sale of domestic TV rights to BSkyB and BT for 3.018 billion pounds ($4.69 billion) in a record three-year deal that was almost twice as much as the previous contract.

Despite his departure, Ferguson can claim to have sowed the seeds for his club’s further success. The squad itself is young and the club’s youth squad system that he overhauled has a history of delivering top-rated talent.

Manchester United’s debt overhang has eased partly on the back of the flotation but also through the club’s ability to raise money, not the least from ticket prices at the modern 76,000-seat Old Trafford.

In the U.K. Parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron praised Ferguson as a "remarkable man in British football who has had an extraordinary, successful career."

Fans — and investors — will clearly want to see the success that Fergie delivered so consistently continue for years to come.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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