Hedge fund tycoon Paul Marshall calls for Man Utd overhaul after European Super League fiasco

Manchester United Super League protest

Sir Paul Marshall, co-founder of UK hedge fund giant Marshall Wace, and ex-Goldman Sachs Asset Management chairman Lord Jim O’Neill are demanding an overhaul of Manchester United’s corporate structure to give supporters more say in the club’s affairs following this week’s European Super League fiasco.

Marshall and O’Neill have written to Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer demanding sweeping reforms to the way the football club is run, including changes in its share class, a new fan-controlled supervisory board, and an end to the Glazer family’s majority stake.

The missive comes after plans for a breakaway competition involving the continent’s footballing elite collapsed within days amid a furious backlash from fans, football administrators and politicians.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool were among the six English Premier League teams involved in the ill-fated scheme, which also featured Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian side AC Milan, which is controlled by high-profile hedge fund activist Paul Singer’s Elliott Management.

Marshall and O’Neill told Glazer the ESL debacle is “the culmination of your 16 years ownership of the club and is perhaps the strongest example of how you seem to have been persistently out of touch with the culture, spirit, indeed, the very purpose of Manchester United.”

In 2010, the pair were part of the so-called “Red Knights” consortium which attempted to wrest control of the club from the Glazers for an estimated GBP1.25 billion.

Joel Glazer wrote to Reds fans earlier this week to apologise for the episode.

Meanwhile, Liverpool FC owner John Henry – who founded quantitative trend-following hedge fund John W. Henry & Co, before launching his Fenway Sports Group empire – has said sorry to the Kop for Fenway’s central role in the soccer shambles.

Marshall and O’Neill want the Glazer family to convert all equity ownership in Manchester United Plc into one single class of shares, each with the same voting rights.

This ‘one share one vote’ policy “in itself would encourage a broader group of investors to consider ownership of the club in the future if they have the same voting rights as everyone else, especially you and your five siblings,” their letter said.

At the same time, the Glazer family should cut its equity share in the club from around 75 per cent to 49.9 per cent, to allow other investors “large or small” to invest. A proposed new supervisory board – on which supporters would have 50 per cent plus one controlling votes – would have reserved powers over ticket price changes and plans to join any new league or competition.

London-based Marshall Wace was co-founded by Paul Marshall and Ian Wace in 1997, with financial backing from billionaire investor George Soros. One of the biggest long/short hedge fund managers in the world,  the firm today manages more than USD43 billion in assets.

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