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Glazer buys share of soccer titan

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 4, 2003

TAMPA -- Now you know why the Bucs increased the price of season tickets after winning the Super Bowl. They had plans for the money.

According to a report in London's Sunday Telegraph, Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer has purchased 2.9 percent of English Premier League soccer club Manchester United, which is valued at $1.58-billion.

The Bucs would not comment, but a spokesman from the north England club confirmed the purchase to the British paper.

Glazer, who paid $192-million for the Bucs on Jan. 16, 1995, reportedly paid $14-million for his minor share in the world's most famous soccer club.

Glazer isn't the only tycoon to jump on the United bandwagon recently. Dutch mogul John de Mol, the man behind the TV show Big Brother, and Irish billionaire Dermot Desmond, owner of the Scottish champions Celtic, acquired similar ownership stakes in past weeks.

Manchester United, winner of seven Premier League Championships and one of the most decorated clubs in the game, is considered the most valuable professional franchise in the world.

In 2002, the franchise reported a profit of about $49.5-million, even though the team failed to win the title. With a worldwide fan base estimated at about 53-million, United's every move has a ripple effect in European society and business. News of recent investments saw United's stock rise about 8 percent Monday.

United's primary owner is British media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns the British Sky Broadcasting Group in London, a European version of CNN. Murdoch, however, controls only 9.9 percent of the team.

Though the Bucs won't talk about their interest in Manchester United, the purchase seems to fall in with the club's move toward business ties with the U.S.

Last year, United signed a 13-year, $495-million deal with Nike. United has marketing links with the Yankees and reportedly has been intrigued by American business investors. The club is expected to showcase itself in the summer when it goes on a four-city U.S. tour. Starting in July, United will play Italian champion Juventus and Scottish champion Celtic in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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