A decade ago, British soccer fans roundly booed Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer as he took control of the venerable club Manchester United. And critics quickly derided the debt-heavy deal as financially unwise.
"I can't see from my point of view why it is such a good business deal," Alan Sugar, prominent businessman and host of BBC television's The Apprentice, said in 2005, adding that Glazer had paid a "very full price."
No one is questioning Glazer's financial acumen lately, reports Jeff Harrington. Manchester United's worth soared 20 percent this year to a stunning $2.24 billion, according to the latest valuations by Forbes. That solidifies its status as the most valuable sports franchise on the globe, leaving American wannabes like the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys in the dust (about $385 million behind by last count). According to a Forbes' analysis, when Glazer gradually took over the team between 2003 and 2005, Man U was valued at $1.4 billion.
"Hindsight is 20-20 (but) in terms of being a smart business investment, I think it's exceptional," said Kathleen Davis, sports economist and CEO of the Sport Management Research Institute in Southern California. "They're a premier team in a premier league, and that exclusivity and global brand continues to carry their valuation each year."