Thomas Zilliacus has hinted that Sheik Jassim’s bid for Manchester United is like “buying a luxury yacht” and insists his offer which will see the fans chip in to own half of the club is “serious and credible”.
The former Nofia executive sat down with Mirror to outline his fan-led vision for the club.
“I’m not as wealthy as Sheikh Jassim or Sir Jim Ratcliffe but I’m wealthy enough to place a serious and credible bid,” the 69-year-old said. “It’s not with my own money only but together with other parties, other investors, who would like to join me. If we don’t reach the total number then maybe with money from third parties. I believe we can do it by bringing fans together and not bringing in any external financing.”
The Finnish entrepeneur is proposing a model where fans chip in a nominal fee for a 50/50 stake alongside him, but has also told Sheikh Jassim and Sir Jim Ratcliffe that he would be willing to own a third of the club alongside them.
Zilliacus insists he understands the “tradition and history of football” unlike “people from other parts of the world” (like Qatar) who acquire clubs like “estates”.
He added: “In Scandinavia most clubs are majority owned by fans. I really would like to reverse in a way the development taking place in the Premier League.
“I’ve been looking for a long time at how clubs are owned in Europe and it’s not to my liking. Nothing against people from other parts of the world but many of these recent acquisitions have been made in a way where it’s like buying a luxury yacht or estate instead of a football club and the owners have forgotten about fans.
“They don’t understand the tradition or history of football like we do having grown up here. So I decided to put in a bid where I would involve fans on equal footing. It’s not about getting them to put up money – money is available in this world for good projects – but to make them feel part of the club in a genuine way and they are also there for the decision-making.”
Zilliacus claims to be a “lifelong fan” of United despite not knowing it was up for sale until the start of this week, when he hastily put his bid together.
“I saw Manchester United as a young boy against HJK and fell in love with the team and I admired the players when I was young,” Zilliacus said before detailing how he recognised the club’s global attraction when he moved to Singapore to head up Nokia’s Asian market.
“In Asia I realised how big a brand it is out there. Recently I’ve been focusing my time more in Europe and looking at investment opportunities here. I’ve been looking at Italian clubs primarily.
“I missed the story initially when the club was up for sale but only saw the news at the start of the week when I realised the deadline was this Wednesday for bids. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in a club I’ve always loved and is by far the biggest football brand in the world.”
Zilliacus says the reaction from fans has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback from supporters. I come from a culture where we’re very open in our belief that talking is the best way to achieve good results. Fans have been able to call me, both individuals and fan clubs.
“They’ve voiced support and I’m happy for that. I genuinely want fans to be involved in great detail. Fans have not been happy with how things have been managed at the club and I want to change that.”
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