United's new owner
Ten years ago, Malcolm Glazer bought the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and promised to turn them from the laughingstock
of the NFL into Super Bowl champions.
Malcolm Glazer: the new owner of the world's
richest soccer club. (AP FILE PHOTO)
Ridiculed by long-suffering Buccaneer fans and the local press, Glazer
was labelled a 'pie -in-the-sky' dreamer, a naive wannabe with more
money than brains. But Glazer earned the last laugh when the Bucs
won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.
Now, two years after scaling the heights of the NFL, Glazer wants
to rule the European version of 'football': after completing a $1.8-billion
Cdn buyout of Manchester United last month, the 76-year-old self-made
billionaire assumed complete control of the world's richest soccer
club this week by taking it off the London Stock Exchange.
Born into a Lithuanian immigrant family in 1928, Glazer is the epitome
of the American dream.
He started working in his family's watch-parts company when he was eight and took over the business seven years later following the death of his father. From there, he expanded the business and invested wisely in a variety of diverse companies over the next 40 years on his way to becoming a billionaire.
Following a series of failed takeover bids in the 1980s, including Harley Davidson and the US Conrail system, Glazer began to dabble in pro sports in 1995, plunking down a then-record $192 million US to buy the Buccaneers.
Glazer got off to a rocky start with Tampa Bay and its fans, threatening to move the club if the city did not build a new stadium within two years. Even though Glazer originally agreed to finance half the cost of the stadium project, the city caved and completed construction of the Raymond James Stadium in 1998. To pay for it, officials raised taxes.
The animosity continued in 2000 when a group of season ticket holders sued Glazer over seating assignments in the new stadium. Glazer counter-sued for defamation, before the two sides settled out of court.
Despite that acrimony, Glazer ushered in a new era of winning in Tampa Bay.
Following 14 consecutive losing seasons, the Buccaneers, guided by coach Tony Dungy, posted an impressive 10-6 record during the 1997 campaign, finishing second in the NFC's Central division and clinching its first playoff berth since 1982.
Tampa Bay missed the playoffs the following year, but was back in the post-season party in 1999 when it won its first division title in 18 years. Losses in the opening round of the playoffs the next two seasons spurred Glazer to make a change.
In 2002, Glazer hired coach Jon Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders and the move paid immediate dividends: Gruden led the Bucs to a 12-4 record and a division title en route to upsetting the Raiders 48-21 in the Super Bowl.
With the Buccaneers valued at $671 million US, Glazer turned his sporting attention across the Atlantic and bought a small stake in Manchester United in 2003. At the time he said he had no intention of becoming a majority owner, but his actions soon indicated otherwise.
Slowly but surely he began purchasing more shares in the club before
completing his takeover bid last month to take his ownership level
to 75.7 per cent, assuring his control of the franchise.
The antithesis of Mark Cuban and George Steinbrenner, Glazer is a hands-off owner who shuns the spotlight (he rarely gives interviews) and is happy remaining quietly in the background.
His laissez faire demeanour, however, has not endeared him to the legions of passionate Manchester United fans. United supporters have fought Gazer every step of the way during his quest to take over the club, frightened that an American with no previous interest in soccer now owns the 127-year-old franchise.
United fans, who have taken to burning Glazer in effigy and cancelling their season tickets in protest, are also leery because he borrowed $490 million US to fund the takeover, and they feel he will raise ticket prices, sell off the team's high-priced talent and Old Trafford (the team's stadium) in order to pay off his debt.
Glazer might be able to guide Manchester United back to the top of
English soccer (the Red Devils have not won the Premier League since
2003) but that still might not be good enough to prevent the embers
of fan discontent from becoming an inferno of rage.
1928 in Rochester, New York.
Forbes 400 list:
Glazer currently ranks #278 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans. His
net worth is $1 billion US.
Interest in Manchester United:
Glazer first bought a stake in the club (2.3 per cent) in 2003. He slowly accumulated
more shares before going on a wild share-shopping spree last fall: on Oct. 15,
he upped his shares to 19.2 per cent; three days later he bought another six million
shares to raise his stake to 27.63 per cent; the next day he added another 1.27
million shares to take his stake to 28.11 per cent.
After a year-long battle and two failed takeover bids, Glazer acquired a controlling
stake in Manchester United on May 12 after buying out a 28.1-per-cent interest
from Irish racehorse owners and majority shareholders J.P. McManus and John Magnier.
He then bought out the third largest stakeholder, Scottish mining entrepreneur
Harry Dobson, to take his share total to 62 per cent of the club. Just hours later,
Glazer bought a further 9.8 per cent interest taking his total ownership to 71.8
per cent. Finally, on May 16, after spending $1.47 billion US, Glazer bought enough
shares to put him over the 75-per-cent threshold needed for him to move the franchise
into private ownership.
Why Glazer bought the club:
Its staggering value. In a recent report by British accounting firm Deloitte calculating
revenues for the world's top soccer clubs, Man U was listed No. 1 for the 2003-04
season at 259 million euros ($410 million Cdn).
An era of dominance:
Ever since the Premier league seceded from the old First Division in 1992-93,
Manchester United has dominated English soccer. The Red Devils have won eight
Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League (European club championship)
Other sporting ambitions:
Glazer failed in a 2003 bid to buy Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers.
Glazer lives in Palm Beach, Fla. with his wife Linda. They have six children:
Avram, Kevin, Bryan, Joel, Edward and Darcie.