Freshfields’ Rawlinson enters Man U fray with Red Knights

Mark Rawlinson
Mark Rawlinson

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer yesterday hosted a meeting of City high-flyers who have formed a group with the intention of buying Manchester United.

Freshfields corporate chief Mark Rawlinson was among the group, known as the Red Knights, who are understood to be looking to raise as much as £1bn in order to make an offer to current owner Malcolm Glazer.

Rawlinson, a United fan who is understood to be acting as an informal legal adviser to the group of businessmen, advised the club during the Glazer family’s hostile takeover in 2005. That deal landed the club with debts that have since risen to more than £700m.

Other members of the Red Knights include former Man Utd board member and Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill and Keith Harris, chairman of investment bank Seymour Pierce. Richard Hytner, deputy chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi and Paul Marshall of hedge fund Marshall Wace are also understood to be involved.

The group, with backing from the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) which was represented at yesterday’s meeting, will look to raise funds from supporters and “high net worth individuals” before making an offer to the Glazers.

A source close to the group said that it was still at “an embryonic stage”, but confirmed that the intention was to regain control of the club.

“If it came to something and we could agree something with the Glazers, then we would act,” said the source. “But Manchester United is no longer a public company so it’d have to be an agreed deal.

“We’re trying to see if there’s an appetite for this among the supporters.”

The Glazers have said that the club is not up for sale.

Allen & Overy corporate head Andrew Ballheimer acted for the family on the takeover.

Earlier this year, a A&O again advised when the club launched a £500m bond issue – the biggest by any football club – to service its increasing mountain of debt. Corporate finance partner Kevin Muzilla led the team for the magic circle firm.

Latham & Watkins advised the consortium of banks, which included Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch and RBS.