City & Corporate: Bulletproof Glazer defies detractors

Malcolm Glazer, the American who has just won control of Manchester United, has scored a first: no takeover has ever been so unpopular.

Apart from those shareholders who depart with a fat profit, no one has had a good word to say about his bid. The fans are incensed, the board has done all it can to block it, and even the City is sceptical. The price, they say, is too high - and the amount of debt that Glazer is piling into the club to finance the purchase could threaten its future, and its ability to support a top-flight team.

This negativity is not just business, it is personal. While a Guardian profile described Glazer as 'clearly no fool', it is the only paper with any pretence to being even-handed.

The man is a walking PR disaster, seemingly vilified by all and welcomed by none. And yet all the bile, all the column inches and all the demonstrations have not made a blind bit of difference. Aided by an equally thick-skinned American bank, JP Morgan, Glazer pressed on single-mindedly to get the prize he wanted.

It is a timely reminder that the power of PR relies very much on both sides playing by the same rules and with the same set of values. The bullets bounced off Glazer because he had no interests in this country which could be damaged, and no reputation to lose. Nor could he be sabotaged by weakness in others. He did not have crucial backers who might have lost their nerve and pulled the plug on him, in the way that Deutsche Borse directors abandoned Werner Seifert. Even when Glazer lost one set of advisers, he easily found replacements.

But Glazer's success has undermined his ability to withstand future criticism - because he now has a significant business in this country. Unless his reputation improves, he will struggle to attract the talent he needs to make a success of it.

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