By Mike Murphy
Saudi Arabia on Sunday denied reports that its crown prince was bidding to acquire the famed Manchester United soccer club, suggesting it’s all been a misunderstanding.
In a tweet , translated by Google, Saudi Minister of Media Turki Alshabanah said: “The news that Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s desire to acquire Manchester United was completely unfounded. In fact, the club held a meeting with the Public Investment Fund to discuss an advertising sponsorship project, and the Fund listened to the proposals as any investment and did not result in any results.”
The Public Investment Fund is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, with about 200 global investments and assets of around $230 billion as of last year, according to Bloomberg News . Saudi Arabia has been using it to increasingly invest in diverse businesses in an effort to wean the country off of its dependency on oil.
In October, the Sun first reported that the crown prince, who’s often referred to by his initials, MBS, was in talks to buy the English Premier League club for more than $3.8 billion, though that was apparently shelved amid backlash to Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia has denied that the crown prince was involved in the killing, but U.S. lawmakers said in December there was no doubt MBS was responsible for it after a closed-door meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The Trump administration has so far refused to condemn MBS.
The Sun reported Sunday that MBS had sweetened his bid to around $4.9 billion, and hoped to buy the club to continue his rivalry with Sheikh Mansour of the Abu Dhabi royal family, who owns the Manchester City club.
Manchester United is owned by the Glazer family, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The family is reportedly not interested in selling.
Man U. is one of the most storied soccer clubs in the world, with 20 league titles, three Champions League titles and more trophies than any other English club.
Malcolm Glazer, who died in 2014, took the club public in 2012. Shares of Manchester United /zigman2/quotes/205140601/composite MANU +1.16% are up 1.8% over the past 12 months, compared to the S&P 500’s /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +1.36% 1.6% gain in that time.