Malcolm Glazer, head of the Glazer family that owns Manchester United, died on Wednesday at the age of 85. As the BBC points out, Glazer was an extraordinarily controversial figure at Old Trafford, despite presiding over a successful era for the club, which saw it win five Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League since taking it over in 2005.
Why? Primarily because Glazer’s 790 million pound ($1.32 billion) takeover of the club saddled it with a 525 million pound ($877.7 million) debt, and some 696 million ($1.16 billion) has since been spent servicing that debt through interest payments, bank charges and debt repayment. In other words, with Glazer’s takeover, United effectively went from being the richest club in the world to being the one that owed the most money.
That being said, Glazer correctly viewed United as a cash cow that could generate vast sums in commercial income, which rose to 152.5 million pounds ($255 million) last year. As the BBC points out, United forged alliances with airlines, tire companies, watchmakers and chip manufacturers, among others, adopting a franchise-based approach to its commercial operations that opened the door to huge amounts of money for the club.
It also had Alex Ferguson, who despite the off-field distractions, managed to keep delivering trophies until his retirement at the end of the 2012/13 campaign. The Scot was also a fervent champion of the Glazer regime, repeatedly praising the Americans for the way they managed the team’s finances.
However, while the Glazers were forced to service United’s debt, the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City began to vastly outspend United on player personnel, a trend which seems to have caught up on the Red Devils this past season, as they finished 7th, their worst-ever finish in the Premier League era.