Chelsea sale to galvanize Manchester United stock, Crimson says

By March 18, 2022 No Comments

• Derek Decloet, Bloomberg News

The impending sale of Chelsea Football Club will prompt investors to reassess the value of Manchester United Plc after a sharp decline in the English Premier League rival’s shares, according to Canadian fund manager Crimson Asset Management Ltd.

As many as 30 bidders could place indicative offers for Chelsea, a person familiar with the situation has told Bloomberg News. The club, owned by sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, is looking for a minimum of 3 billion pounds (US$3.9 billion).

That’s nearly double the US$2.1 billion market value of Manchester United, which is trading near a record low after dropping 29 per cent over the past six months. The lower value isn’t justified, given the shifts in demand for sports broadcasting rights as technology giants bid to add live events to their streaming services, said Crimson Chief Executive Officer Ken Jesudian. His Toronto-based firm bought in a position in Manchester United last year.

“I think it will surprise people, even though it’s forced, what they’ll get for it,” Jesudian said of the Chelsea sale. Professional soccer is “a business that’s changed immensely and there’s very few opportunities to actually go to the source and own a part of an iconic sports franchise.”

Abramovich has no choice but to sell Chelsea after the U.K. government sanctioned him following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Raine, a New York-based investment bank, is collecting the first round of offers on Friday.

Jesudian described Manchester United as a unique asset and said the revenue growth potential is driven largely by vast changes in the media landscape — as seen in Apple Inc.’s deal this month to stream Major League Baseball games, the iPhone manufacturer’s first major foray into live sports broadcasting.

“It’s Manchester United. It’s beachfront property,” said Jesudian, whose small-cap-focused Crimson Capital Growth Fund has returned an annualized 15.2 per cent since inception, as of Dec. 31. That compares with an 8.2 per cent return for the Russell 2000 Index in Canadian dollar terms over that time.