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Old 11th December 2005, 10:47   #1
Paul Brooks

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Default Glazer starts selling off the family silver

Glazer starts selling off the family silver

John Duncan in Florida
Sunday December 11, 2005
The Observer

Malcolm Glazer is close to selling his non-sporting interests and could have a cash pile of $80 million (56m) to spend on the rebuilding of Manchester United if the sale of his shares in Omega Proteins goes through in the next few weeks.

But the move could spark fears that Glazer is liquidating family assets to support 800m worth of debt linked to his acquisition of Manchester United this year. The club's value has been knocked by its shock eviction from the Champions League last week when it lost to Benfica; it has therefore also lost vital income this season and next from high-profile European games.

But a spokesman for the Glazer family in Florida said: 'They remain extremely comfortable with the level of indebtedness at the club.' He declined to comment on speculation that US hedge funds, which have lent 275m, could end up controlling United if its fortunes failed to pick up.

Glazer, who has been dealt several blows in recent weeks with the withdrawal also of Vodafone as shirt sponsor, is selling most of his non-sporting interests. As well as United, he owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who look set for the US National Football League's playoffs this year after two losing seasons.

Zapata, a holding company in which the Glazers own 50 per cent, indicated this week that it wishes to sell its 60 per cent stake in Omega Protein. The company has around 24.5m shares trading yesterday at $6.70 each, valuing the Zapata holding at about $98m. The announcement comes in the week that Zapata raised $51.2m with the sale of airbags maker Safety Components International to private equity investors.

Malcolm Glazer's son Avram, chair and CEO of Zapata, did not elaborate on the company's intentions for the recent haul of cash. 'We plan to continue to evaluate strategic opportunities for the use of our capital resources,' said Glazer, 'to enhance value for our stockholders by way of future acquisitions and other strategic opportunities.'

One possible home for the cash is Old Trafford. The club urgently need an injection of playing talent to compete at the highest level in Europe. The Glazers' reputation in Tampa is for providing funds to achieve success and add to the value of their sports franchises in trouble. One option is that Zapata, which will own no operating assets once Omega is sold, could be liquidated, with the cash divided among shareholders. That would give the Glazers money to pump into United's rebuilding.

Omega made a net loss of $6.1m in the quarter following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which cost it $13.2m. The company lost $8.2m in the nine months to September 2005, compared with a profit of $4.3m in 2004.,00.html
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