The takeover of Manchester United by the Glazer family beginning in 2005 saddled the historic club with substantial amounts of debt, which is a source of continuing controversy for many long-time supporters of the club. The Glazers paid around £790 million for the team. The family initially took the club private, which created a great deal of debt, but then had an initial public offering (IPO) in 2012. At one point in 2010, the club's debt exceeded £716.5 million, or over $1 billion, prompting outcry from the club's supporters. That debt amount was paid down over the next few years. As of February 2015, the club had around £380.5 million of debt, which had increased over the prior quarter. The lack of participation in the Champion's League in the 2014-2015 season hurt the club's revenues.

Malcolm Glazer built his wealth through real estate investing, including mobile home parks and shopping centers. The Glazers also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL). The Glazer takeover of Manchester United has been fraught with controversy due to the amount of debt used for the transaction.

The Glazers began purchasing their shares in Manchester United in 2003 through a holding company known as Red Football. They built their position over the next few years. In May 2005, the Glazers achieved over a 75% controlling interest in the club, and soon after had the shares delisted from the London Stock Exchange. As part of the takeover, the Glazers saddled the club with a large amount of debt. Around £265 million was secured by the club's assets, with the total amount of debt around £660 million. This was the first time the club had debt since 1931. The loans were provided by large American hedge funds. The interest rates on the debt amounted to around £62 million a year. A substantial portion of the loans were payment in kind loans, which the club was paying 16.25% interest on at one point. The precarious nature of the club's balance sheet led to protests by the club's supporters.

The Glazers refinanced this debt in 2010 by issuing a series of bonds with two main tranches. The first tranche, worth about £250 million, paid interest around 8.75%. The second tranche, worth around $425 million, paid 8.375% in interest. The second tranche was issued as a result of high investor demand in the United States. The funds from the bond offerings were used to pay down outstanding debt.

In 2012, Manchester United had an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Shares were offered at $14, offering around 16 million shares for sale. Class A shares were offered to the public, while Class B shares were controlled by the Glazers. The classes were structured so that the Glazers maintained voting control of the club, which some viewed as controversial. George Soros, the famed investor, was a major purchaser of Class A shares during the IPO. Money from the IPO was used to pay around £62 million in bonds, decreasing the club's debt load.

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