SBJ/July 30-August 5, 2012/Franchises

Man U’s planned offering makes few waves in U.S.

While Manchester United’s plan to sell shares on the New York Stock Exchange is drawing headlines as a big international finance and sports story, on the U.S. sports scene, the EPL club’s efforts are being received with more of a yawn.

The age of public team ownership in U.S. sports is seen as having come and gone, if ever there was such an age. Time and time again, teams have proved poorly suited for the public markets, which focus on quarterly returns and do not appreciate the longer-term aspects of sports team ownership.

“We all know the real value of sports team ownership is appreciation over time,” said Bob Caporale, a sports finance adviser with Game Plan. “It would be unrealistic to expect any kind of distributions or profits.”

Indeed, Man U plans no dividends from the sale, according to the prospectus. The club chose the United States for its listing because of the receptivity to dual-stock structures that will keep Man U’s control in the hands of its current owners, the Glazers.

The team last week reportedly was reviewing whether to proceed with the offering later this year, given the choppy market conditions. A spokesman for one of Manu U’s IPO underwriters, Jefferies, declined to comment on when the shares will be sold.

Teams in the last two decades that have been public and then gone private include the Florida Panthers, Boston Celtics and Cleveland Indians. Public media companies have controlled a host of teams, but in most of those cases, the teams have been spun out and sold.

Sports finance adviser Rob Tilliss, whose firm, Inner Circle Sports, brokered the sale of Liverpool FC, pointed to the escalating media fees in the EPL as evidence that the initial public offering might attract more than just fans wanting a piece of Red Devil memorabilia over their fireplace.

“If any team could go public, it’s Man U,” said Tilliss of the team, widely seen as the top sports team brand in the world.

The team will have something else going for it that any U.S. team would not: Man U will not have to file quarterly earning reports for five years. A law designed to attract foreign listing exempts the club from the quarterly requirements that local teams would have.

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