Soros Buys Into Manchester United

SEC filings show sizeable buy of soccer club stock

George Soros at Davos. (Photo: AP)Billionaire investor George Soros (left) must like soccer—or hope that the craze for it continues among others—because his investment fund has bought a stake in Manchester United, the British soccer team owned by the American Glazer family that was taken public less than two weeks ago.

The BBC reported Tuesday that, according to SEC filings, Soros Fund Management snapped up more than 3.1 million shares to the tune of 25.8 million pounds ($40.7 million) as of the stock’s closing price on Monday. That amounts to 7.85% of the class A shares and 1.9% of the team. However, it still doesn’t give Soros much say over the team’s doings, since the class B shares retained by the Glazers carry 10 times the voting rights of the class A shares.

The stock has fallen since its IPO, at which it was valued at over $2.3 billion. The share price has lost 6.7% since the stock's debut on Aug. 10; on Monday shares were down 2.7%.

That doesn’t appear to be worrying Soros, who has passed up other sports teams in the past and in 2008 decided against a takeover of AS Roma, an Italian team, due to debt issues that made the club less desirable.

Media rights may be the key to Man U’s attraction for the billionaire. Philip Hall, a partner at Inner Circle Sports, an investment bank focused on the sports industry, was quoted saying in the report, "This could be a play by Soros on the strength of Manchester United's brand and the English Premier League's growing media rights."

Hall added, "The domestic rights are set to increase 70% for the 2013–2014 season and the international media rights, set to be announced in late October or early November, are also expected to come in at a very robust uplift."

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