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Manchester United trades on NYSE

By Laurie Bennett

August 10, 2012 at 5:53am

Shares in the Manchester United (MANU.N) soccer club began selling Friday at $14, well below the $16-20 price sought by underwriters.

That means Malcolm Glazer, the American businessman who has owned the team since 2006, will raise $117 million less than he had hoped.

Oddly, many Manchester fans are cheering the flop, saying they hope the price will drop to the point that the team becomes a takeover target.

As owner of the world’s most popular sports team, Glazer, who also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, may be the world’s most unpopular owner.

Not only did Manchester perform poorly last year, but Glazer has diverted assets to his family rather than paying down debt.

At the end of March, the soccer club was in the hole by more than $660 million.

However, it has lined up some lucrative sponsorships. Last week, General Motors announced a deal with the club valued at as much as $600 million.

With a playing field in North Wwest England, incorporation in the Cayman Islands and a public offering on the New York stock exchange, the team has become a truly global enterprise. IPO filings claim an international following of 659 million people.

As the documents note, the team has more than 26 million Facebook friends, compared to just 5.8 million for the New York Yankees and 4.8 million for the Dallas Cowboys.

Facebook friends, however, don’t pay team salaries. Let’s see how many buy stock.

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