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Last Updated: Monday, 16 May, 2005, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
American dreamer looks to Man Utd
By Gavin Stamp
BBC News business reporter

Malcolm Glazer

He may be pursuing one of Britain's best-known institutions, but Malcolm Glazer remains, above all, a shining example of the American dream.

His pursuit of Manchester United has made him a household name in UK financial circles and a figure of suspicion for many ordinary fans.

However, Malcolm Glazer's background couldn't be any further removed from the glamour and drama of the 'Theatre of Dreams'.

From a Lithuanian family which emigrated to the United States, he was born in 1928, just as the Wall Street Crash was about to propel America into a decade-long depression.

Hands-on

The budding tycoon grew up in Rochester, New York State, what was then a provincial town an hour from the Canadian border and 300 miles north of New York City.

His father ran a store selling watch parts and it was in this humble setting, that he first cut his teeth in business after his father's death in 1943.

Harley-Davidson motorbike
Harley-Davidson slipped through Mr Glazer's hands in 1989

Over the next thirty years, the aspiring businessman steadily transformed his small inheritance into a growing business empire, thanks to a series of shrewd investments.

Yet, it was not until well into his mid fifties that Mr Glazer was to become embroiled in his first takeover battle.

American icons

In 1984, he launched an unsuccessful $7.6bn (4bn) bid to buy the bankrupt freight rail company, Conrail, reputedly backed up by just 100m of his own money.

The bid may have come off the rails but Mr Glazer avoided being shunted into the sidings.

He successfully invested in a range of business spanning television, restaurants and property.

He became famous for stalking icons of American life such as kitchen designer Formica and motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson.

Neither of these deals ultimately came off but his willingness to take a gamble and put himself in the firing line was clear.

This hard edge was not merely confined to his public life.

In 1980, Glazer took his five sisters to court in a dispute over their mother's will.

Sporting passion

However, it was in the bearpit of American football that he was really to make his business reputation and cement his fortune.

In 1995, he paid $192m for the underperforming NFL football team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Quickly proving that he wouldn't just sit on the touchline, he sacked the team's coach at the end of his first season.

Several unremarkable seasons followed and the new owner incurred the wrath of the team's fans by threatening to move the team out of the city.

Manchester United fans protest outside Old Trafford
Malcolm Glazer has yet to win round many Manchester Utd fans

In 2003, he spent $8m on luring one of the sport's most successful coaches, Jon Gruden, from rival team, the Oakland Raiders.

The gamble paid off and that same year, the Buccaneers went on to win the Superbowl.

His investment in the club was said to have quadrupled in value.

However, he wasn't content to sit on his laurels. He soon tried and failed to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

On the ball

More significantly, it was in March 2003 - the year that Manchester United last won the Premiership title - that Mr Glazer first paid 9m to buy into Britain's biggest football club.

Any suggestions that he was merely in it for the prawn sandwiches were quickly dispelled as the tycoon's stake steadily rose, hitting 28% last October.

The talk was of a bidding war between him and two other legendary gamblers, financiers JP McManus and John Magnier who had also built up a significant holding in the club.

After the club rebuffed an informal takeover approach last November, Mr Glazer showed his ruthless streak, effectively forcing three United directors off the board.

This escalation of hostilities was seen as a mistake by some and Mr Glazer's main financial backer, JP Morgan, promptly withdrew.

However, the American proved undaunted and returned with more detailed takeover proposals and fresh backers in February.

The fans may not have liked it but Mr Glazer was proving, not for the first time, that he wouldn't take no for an answer.


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