The Glazer family, owners of the UK soccer powerhouse Manchester United and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was put on the defensive this week when news reports claimed they were about $1.6 billion in debt, a staggering amount that could put their sports holdings in jeopardy.
As reported by BBC News, the debts are more than half a billion dollars larger than previously known. British investment analyst Andy Green, who headed the investigation into the Glazers’ finances, discovered the extra debt in mortgage documents that show the Glazers borrowed $567 million against their shopping mall business, First Allied Corporation. First Allied owns and rents shopping malls across the U.S.
With the debt come questions as to how the Glazers will be able to finance and clear Manchester United’s $1.17 billion debt that was assumed when the Glazers’ took over in 2005. ManU is considered one of the five most-valuable sports franchises in the world, according to Forbes magazine.
Green’s analysis reportedly found that four of Allied’s shopping malls are now insolvent because of low occupancy, and another mall in Texas is in default due to failed mortgage payments. Twenty-eight malls are on banks’ watch lists and 17 do not collect enough rent to cover mortgage payments.
Not all of the Glazers’ malls are hovering near insolvency, and First Allied did make $9.7 million from its tenants last year (before taxes), according to BBC News. However, that is not enough money to adequately address their mortgages, and pay off $202 million in “payment in kind” loans with Manchester United. These loans were supposed to be repaid with funds from First Allied, and they carry a 14.25 percent interest rate.
These numbers suggest that the Glazers will not be able to rely on their business to clear ManU’s debt, and many fans are worried that the Glazers will draw more loans from the club, in addition to the $32.9 million in loans and consultancy fees already drawn. In an attempt at fostering some goodwill among fans, the Glazers froze the price of ManU’s tickets for the upcoming season.
“The picture of First Allied revealed by the mortgages shows that although we have always been told the Glazers are very successful business people, they do not have a business besides the Bucs and United – which they bought with debt – generating much money at all,” Green wrote in his report.
In a statement this week released to USA Today, Jonathan Grella, spokesperson for the Buccaneers, tried to reassure fans that the Glazers and the football team would be fine. The Glazers have borrowed $95 million against the Buccaneers, and since the Glazers bought ManU, they have spent less money on player salaries than any other NFL team.
“Buccaneers fans should know that the Glazer family is as financially well-positioned as ever before. Companies they own generate revenues in excess of $800 million each year,” Grella stated. “Sophisticated real estate experts know that the family’s refinancing of their commercial real estate before the global meltdown has proven to be the wise move.
“While First Allied represents only a small portion of their asset portfolio, it continues to generate significant profits, enjoys over 90% occupancy, and has long term non-recourse financing.
“This franchise remains committed to bringing the resources to build its next championship team.”