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Manchester United sell naming rights to training ground for £150m

Category : Business

• Club secure eight-year agreement with Aon
• United ‘will never sell naming rights to Old Trafford’

Manchester United have sold the naming rights to their training ground as part of a sponsorship deal with the insurance firm Aon, the club’s current shirt sponsors, estimated to be worth $230m (£150m).

The eight-year agreement with Aon starts in July – from when Carrington will be known as the “Aon Training Complex” – and is a further sign of the club’s off-field money-making abilities.

However, United have said that they will never sell the naming rights to Old Trafford. “Old Trafford will not be sold,” United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, said on Sunday.

Aon’s name currently appears on United’s main match kit in a $130m, four-year deal but General Motors’ Chevrolet division takes over that sponsorship in a $559m, seven-year deal from the 2014-15 season.

Financial details of the new Aon deal were not publicly disclosed but it is estimated to be worth $230m over eight years and will also see the company provide United with business expertise.

United bought out their previous training kit sponsorship deal with the express delivery and freight firm DHL early in a bid to secure more cash, with that agreement having been worth around $65m over four years.

Kipper Williams on Manchester United

Category : Business

‘Still, it wasn’t as bad as van Persie’s debut’

Read the original: Kipper Williams on Manchester United

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Manchester United shares fail to fire on New York stock market debut

Category : Business

Club’s bankers forced to slash price to $14 before much-anticipated IPO, with shares failing to push on in trading

Manchester United’s first day on the New York Stock Exchange got off to a flat start as shares eked out a tiny gain in early trading before falling back to the slashed launch price.

United’s bankers had been looking to sell shares for between $16 and $20, but cut the launch price late on Thursday to $14 – shaving as much as $100m off the windfall expected for the team and its owners, the Glazer family. Shares crept up by 5¢ in early trading. But even this modest gain was wiped out by close, ending back at $14.

The lackluster response from investors will come as a disappointment, especially given that the NYSE ended up, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 42.76 points in the day’s trading, to 13,207.95.

While the club failed to raise the money it had been seeking, United has still officially become the most valuable sports club in the world, valued at about $2.3bn.

Manchester United’s co-chairmen Avram and Joel Glazer, and chief executive David Gill, applauded the start of trading from the Wall Street exchange’s balcony, which was adorned with the club’s emblem. New York traders wore the United’s new home jersey on the trading floor – but their support did little to boost the stock price.

Wall Street analysts had been dismissive of the sale before the initial public offering (IPO). One analyst called the club’s share sale “merchandise” and predicted further trouble ahead.

“Winning teams don’t necessarily make winning investments,” said Sam Hamadeh, the founder of analyst PrivCo. Hamadeh said small investors were “tired of being burned by big-brand names that turn out to be poor investments”.

“Look at Facebook, look at Groupon – both turned out to be a disaster for small investors. I think they should be applauded for avoiding this one,” he said.

United, one of the world’s most famous soccer clubs, has found it difficult to find a stock exchange to call home. Once listed on the London Stock Exchange, the club was bought by the Glazer family in 2005 and saddled with huge debts.

The lower flotation price comes after the Glazers, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, previously failed to garner enough support to sell shares on exchanges in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The sale is the largest since Facebook’s ill-fated IPO in May, and raised $233.2m, to be split equally between the club and the Glazers.

Manchester United IPO: share price slashed before New York Exchange debut

Category : Business

• Price cut to $14 after negative comments from analysts
• United still the world’s most valuable club at $2.3bn

Manchester United have slashed the price of their shares ahead of their debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

The club had been set to sell their shares for between 20 (£10.20-£12.80) a share but cut them to $14 late on Thursday following negative comments from Wall Street analysts and Facebook’s disappointing stock market debut in May.

Even after the cut United will be valued at $2.3bn (£1.5bn) making them the most valuable football club in the world. Real Madrid, their closest rivals in financial terms, are valued at $1.88bn, according to an annual ranking by Forbes magazine.

The shares are being sold by the Glazer family, a US-family who made their fortune with shopping malls and trailer parks and also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Glazers bought United in 2005 for about £800m. They are selling 16.7m shares, equal to a 10% stake, and will raise about $330m. The family will net about about £90m from the flotation.

The club claim a global fan base of about 660m and have won a record 19 league titles. Their share sale will be the largest sports listing on record, surpassing World Wrestling Federation’s $190m IPO in 1999, according to Thomson Reuters.

It will also be the most high-profile since Facebook’s ill-fated debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange in May. The social network’s much hyped share sale proved a bust and shares initially sold at $38 are now worth $20.

Wall Street analysts have warned they believe United’s sale too could be a disappointment. “I’m calling this son of Facebook,” said David Menlow, president of the research firm

He said too little of the money being raised looked like it was going to be invested in the club, the club had too many debts and it was not clear how they intended to grow as a business.

“Sports franchises have this emotional flourish, then everybody wakes up and wonders, ‘Do I really want to own this?’” he said.

Sam Hamadeh, founder New York-based analyst PrivCo, called United “a collectible not an investment”. “This is one for the rabid fan,” he said.

This is the Glazer family’s third attempt at a share sale having previously scrapped efforts to sell shares on exchanges in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Those sales failed as investors balked at United’s proposed dual class share structure. Under the US listing the family will retain control of the club through class B shares that have 10 times more voting power than the publicly traded class A shares.

The company is also taking advantage of recently introduced US laws that limit the financial disclosures it must make. United is raising capital as an “emerging growth” company under president Barack Obama’s recently passed Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or Jobs Act.

The move means United will not be required to file quarterly reports or be subject to the same level of financial scrutiny as other US-listed firms for five years.

Some of the proceeds from the sale are expected to be used to pay down some of the 134-year-old club’s debt, which was last reported to be around £423m. But the Glazer family had originally claimed all the proceeds would go towards United’s debt, angering some fans.

A leading fans group has called for a boycott of the club’s sponsors in protest at the terms of the share sale.

A statement from the Manchester United Supporters Trust (Must) read: “The Manchester United Supporters Trust has today called for a worldwide boycott of Manchester United sponsors’ products, with support across the UK, Europe, Asia and the US. The boycott strategy is intended to send a loud and clear message to the Glazer family and club sponsors that, without the support and purchasing power of the fans, the global strength of the Manchester United brand doesn’t actually exist.”

Rio Ferdinand criticised over advert linked to Asian tobacco firm

Category : Business

Manchester United footballer was unaware of company’s profits from cigarettes when he starred in adverts

Footballer Rio Ferdinand, of Manchester United and England, is at the centre of a row over tobacco advertising after anti-smoking charities accused him of promoting a company that owns one of Asia’s biggest cigarette brands.

Ferdinand, an active supporter of the global children’s charity Unicef, appears in billboard advertisements and YouTube videoclips streamed in Indonesia that promote Gudang Garam International’s internet-based sports channel, Intersport, which broadcasts Premier League football matches and helps to raise the profile of English football in Asia.

GGI is one of Indonesia’s largest tobacco companies and its cigarettes, which are flavoured with spices such as cloves and cinnamon, are particularly popular with children.

A spokesman for the United player insisted that the footballer, a fervent anti-smoker, was not advertising tobacco but the sports channel. It appears that Ferdinand, who is only one of many international football stars to appear in the GGI ads, had been unaware that GGI, a conglomerate, makes a large amount of its profits from tobacco or that his image would be used on billboards which carry the cigarette brand logo. The spokesman said Ferdinand was consulting lawyers about the use of his image in the campaign.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the anti-smoking group Ash, said such sponsorship deals were banned in the UK because of concerns that they promoted cigarettes to young people. She called on Ferdinand to dissociate himself from GGI, particularly given his relationship with Unicef.

“Rio talks a good talk about ‘putting children first’ when he tweets for Unicef, but he has to put his money where his mouth is,” Arnott said. “Well over a third of 15-year-old boys in Indonesia smoke and smoking rates among the young have increased sixfold since 1995. Rio is estimated to be worth £40m and to earn more than £100,000 a week; does he really need to do this? I hope now he realises what he’s done he’ll apologise.”

The row has threatened to embroil Ferdinand’s club. Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection has written to United’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, urging him “to have this unhealthy promotion removed immediately”.

In the YouTube videos, Ferdinand, wearing a red football kit similar to that of United and displaying the GGI corporate badge, describes how “football is everything and everything about football is only on Gudang Garam Intersport”. The final scene cuts to the Gudang Guram Intersport logo, which is then followed by the Gudam Garang International logo and a tobacco health warning.

Tobacco firms worldwide are keen to cultivate the next generation of smokers, but their efforts are hampered by blanket advertising bans in Europe. However, no such laws apply in Indonesia, where GGI also operates a website promoting music which anti-smoking groups claim is another attempt to reach young people.

“I don’t believe that it is a coincidence that Gudang Garam chose a Manchester United player to promote their brand sponsorship of Indonesian football, as the iconic Manchester United kit so closely resembles their own cigarette brand colours,” said Andrea Crossfield, the director of Tobacco Free Futures, which is leading the UK campaign for cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging.

“The tobacco industry thrives on marketing to young people through associating their brand with aspirational figures. The World Health Organisation predicts smoking will kill one billion people this century; this is an industry which uses manipulative marketing to hook kids worldwide into a lethal habit that kills one in two of every lifelong smoker – the vast majority of whom start smoking before the age of 18.”

Ian Gray, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health’s principal policy officer, said role models had a part to play in ensuring children were not encouraged to smoke. “We must be concerned about the prevalence of smoking internationally, particularly in the developing world, where it is a major killer,” Gray told Environmental Health News. “It is particularly galling to see a prominent UK celebrity recognised by young football supporters the world over participating in such a distasteful and ill-advised campaign.”

A spokeswoman for United said: “The contractual agreement between Rio and Gudang Garam Intersports runs to 31

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