Famed soccer team Manchester United debuts on NYSE

In this handout photo provided by the NYSE Euronext, Manchester United Executives David Gill (R), Joel Glazer (C, R) and Avram Glazer (C) prepare to ring the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 10, 2012 in New York City. Manchester United shares started trading at $14.05 at the opening of the New York Stock Exchange.

Kai Ryssdal: Die-hard fans of one of the most well-known sports names on the planet had a chance to put their money where their mouths are today. England's 134-year-old Manchester United soccer club is now a publicly traded company. The IPO values Man U at something near $2.3 billion, which not coincidentally makes it the richest sports franchise in the history of sports franchises.

But the team raised less money that it had hoped. And our senior business correspondent Bob Moon explains sports is a hard sell on Wall Street.


Bob Moon: Manchester United is looking to pay down its heavy debt, but half the $233 million raised will go to the Florida-based Glazer family, which bought control of the team in 2005. They also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

So what do investors get for their money? Here's what CEO David Gill told CNBC this morning.

David Gill: You're buying into what is one of the world's most iconic brands, and playing in the fastest-growing sport in the world, and we can show, we can demonstrate across all our revenue streams great growth opportunities.

There's a chance Manchester United could make good on that promise -- but don't quit your day job. So says sports business consultant Patrick Rishe.

Patrick Rishe: They certainly have done a fantastic job of marketing their brand internationally for years and years. So, if anyone has a shot to generate a little something for their stockholders, it would be Man U.

But at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, sports business expert Victor Matheson is skeptical, because the team's operating costs are also going up.

Victor Matheson: It's becoming ever more expensive to attract the talent you need to maintain Man U as a leading worldwide brand.

Matheson says the teams often make out better than their public investors. But it's apparent that many are fans who don't seem to care, anyway. At the research firm IPOFinancial, David Menlow recalls the strange case of the stock dividends paid by the Boston Celtics years ago.

David Menlow: People would not cash the checks, they would frame them!

Those who held on to shares of the Cleveland Indians during the decade that team traded publicly realized 50 percent gains -- provided they bothered to cash them in,  that is.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...