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David Gill defends Glazers and says they are here to stay

March 3, 2010

Manchester United chief executive David Gill says the Glazers are 'passionate about the club'

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has defended the Glazer family and their financial strategy, saying they are “running the club in the right way”.

He described the Florida-based businessmen, who took over the club in 2005 and have saddled the club with debts of £716.5m, as “very long term owners” who are “passionate about the club”, and dismissed suggestions of a takeover by the so-called Red Knights.

“The owners want to keep the club for many years to come,” he said. “They are not sellers.”

He defended the Glazers’ decision not to make themselves accessible to the fans or attend matches at Old Trafford. “They have taken a view that they are not there to be visible. They realise in order to get the most out of the asset they have to leave the people that they have to manage it,” he said.

“They don’t come to many games but they are very passionate about the club. They have let myself and the team run the business and if you look at our performance that vindicates that approach. We’ve had success on the pitch and success off the pitch.”

Gill – speaking at the Soccerex conference in Manchester – said that the recent bond issue, which raised £100m but means the club must now repay £45m a year in interest, has given the club “the financial situation we want and we have got to be very pleased with it”.

“Before, when we were listed on the stock exchange, we didn’t have debt,” he said. “Now we have an element of debt which is easily serviced.”

The Red Knights, who include former United board member and Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, lawyer Mark Rawlinson and financier Keith Harris, want to buy the club from the Glazer family but Gill was unmoved.

“I’ve read about it in the papers,” he said. “Unless the owners want to sell, and they have not given any indication to me, then they [Red Knights] can not buy the asset. I’m aware of Jim O’Neill from his time at the club. Keith Harris will go anywhere where there is a bit of publicity around, and his track record is nothing to write home about. Plus, I don’t know how 20 or 30 people running the club will work. My experience is the best run clubs are where there is clear, efficient decision-making.”

However, he was not wholly unsympathetic to their cause and their frustrations. “I don’t think that it’s misguided,” he said. “We have 330 million followers around the world and it is highly likely we will have some dissenters. We understand it and we have experienced it for many years. They clearly have their own views and there are a lot of intelligent people in these organisations.”

Gill said that the furore surrounding Manchester United is just part and parcel of being one of the world’s biggest football clubs and, because he does not own any equity in the club, “any issue of ownership is nothing to do with me.”

“We [the club staff] are just concentrating on our jobs and running the club day to day. Would it be better if it [the speculation] wasn’t there? Yes. Does it affect our day to day lives? No.”

He went on to defend the club’s transfer policy and described manager Sir Alex Ferguson as “very happy” with the owners. “Without doubt there is money available. We are looking for players all the time. We have spent a lot of money on Chris Smalling. That is the sort of player we want – a young player who can continue to develop and hopefully give us service for many years to come.”

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