By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter at the Soccerex conference
Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon has said that publicly-listed clubs such as Manchester United will always be vulnerable to potential takeovers.
Mr Kenyon said key decisions at Chelsea are made by three people
United's board is considering a third takeover offer from US billionaire Malcolm Glazer, with fans campaigning against the proposed £800m move.
Mr Kenyon quit as Old Trafford chief to take over at Stamford Bridge in 2003.
Now he has questioned whether the public-quoted structure is right for football clubs.
Mr Kenyon was speaking at the Soccerex football finance seminar in London, attended by delegates from top clubs, federations and football businesses.
"As a public company you are always in play and in terms of long-term planning that makes life difficult," he said.
"I am not sure if the public-quoted structure is right for football clubs," he said. "Within the industry, the preference would always be for private ownership over public.
"Look at the Malcolm Glazer situation and the quandary of the Manchester United board where if they recommend the offer they will have the anger of the fans to deal with."
He questioned the benefit to clubs of going public.
"There was a time that it was seen as the golden goose for clubs to go to the market," he said.
Clubs with listed shares
Heart of Midlothian
Manchester City - Ofex
Preston North End
Rangers - Ofex
West Bromwich Albion
He said that when Manchester United went to the market, it was already a well-run club that had invested in the stadium, players and facilities from within its own earnings.
"Manchester United gained liquidity in shares, which allowed some money to go to key shareholders, but apart from about £16m, the bulk of the £150-£160m we invested in players and stadia came from within the football club."
The Chelsea chief also claimed that key shareholders, rather than the club, were the ones to benefit from going public.
"Going to the market doesn't necessarily mean you have a well-run business. Most clubs that have gone to market have failed.
"Being private means you don't have external pressures. Manchester United are always in line for a potential takeover, first there was BSkyB, and now there is Malcolm Glazer," he said.
Private ownership boon?
He compared it with the situation at Stamford Bridge, which is privately owned by Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich.
"As a private business, it means literally three of us (at Chelsea) can decide what to do."
He was referring to himself, Mr Abramovich, and team manager Jose Mourinho.
Mr Kenyon, who was recently criticised by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson over restaurant meetings with United's Rio Ferdinand, said there was a five-year plan for the Blues, which he hopes would see the business become profitable by 2009.
He also said the club would focus on four key markets, "London, Russia, where we feel we have a competitive advantage, China - not Asia - and north America."