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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 April 2006, 03:42 GMT 04:42 UK
In search of the Glazers
Jonathan Legard
By Jonathan Legard
BBC Radio Five Live Football Correspondent

My quest to meet Manchester United owner Malcolm Glazer took me to Orlando, Florida, for the annual NFL owners' meeting. And I almost missed him.

I arrived 45 minutes early and watched some of the richest men in America file into a luxury hotel for the get-together.

It was like a parade of peacocks. The billionaire owners clearly relished the limelight and walked with an obvious swagger and confidence.

IN SEARCH OF THE GLAZERS
BBC Radio Five Live
Tuesday 11 April
1900-2200 BST

But Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, was nowhere to be seen.

Then, with just a minute to go before the start, a small, stocky figure with wispy ginger hair rushed by.

Unlike the other owners, he had no time for the assembled journalists and television crews.

I sat in the hotel lobby feeling disappointed at having missed an interview opportunity. But after 30 minutes, he emerged and I walked over with my tape running.

Glazer smiled when I explained I was from the BBC, but he seemed anything but happy. Here was someone who clearly felt uncomfortable about the prospect of being interviewed.

I shook his hand - it was as soft as anyone's I had ever touched, like a silk glove.

Then I got about a minute with him - his first interview with the British media - before he disappeared to rejoin the other owners.

This was my only meeting with the American billionaire who had caused so much controversy with his takeover of Manchester United last summer. And although brief, it was revealing.

Because Glazer is not a typical team owner. He sees the Buccaneers and Manchester United as businesses, not great loves.

The mayor of Tampa told me that going to a game with Glazer is like going to church.

At the first home game after Glazer's takeover, the Buccaneers put together a fabulous move before being pulled back for an infringement.

The crowd went wild, but Glazer simply said, "What a pity, they must be disappointed".

Yet he turned Tampa from the laughing stock of US sport to the winners of the Super Bowl in 2003, and the fans are grateful to him for this.

Their stadium, which they struggled to fill before he arrived, is full for every home game and 100,000 people are on the waiting list for season tickets.

He can be loyal, sticking with Tampa head coach Tony Dungy for six years before sacking him. But he can also be ruthless, threatening to leave Tampa if the city did not pay for a new stadium.

Tampa's former manager Rich McKay admits he was wary when Glazer took over in 1995. Yet although the new owner was direct and determined to win, he did not meddle in team affairs or dictate to the coaches.

Manchester United chief executive David Gill also told me he had found the Glazers supportive and co-operative since they had taken over at Old Trafford in June last year.

He has most regular contact with Malcolm's fourth-eldest son, Joel, who I also interviewed for the programme and found to be very personable and amiable.

My glimpse into the world of the Glazers does not enable me to assure Manchester United fans that the future at their club will always be rosy.

But I do know that the new owners have a way of working which has undoubtedly proved successful.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Feature: In search of the Glazers


Feature: In search of the Glazers (pt 2)



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