It turns out billionaire money manager George Soros was a big buyer of shares in football club Manchester United when they went on sale for the first time earlier this month.
According to information filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Soros owns two percent of the club.
Has the normally canny investor scored an own goal?
The value of the shares has fallen steadily since they first went on sale.
Manchester United, which went public on August 9, priced below its expected range amid broad scepticism about the valuation the club’s owners wanted.
It also made the identity of the eventual shareholders a matter of particular interest for other institutional investors.
The club is owned by the Glazer family, which has interests ranging from shopping malls to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team.
Soros was likely drawn to Manchester United because of the team’s lucrative media rights deals, said Philip Hall, a partner at New York-based investment bank Inner Circle Sports which has advised on high-profile English Premier League takeovers including Fenway Sports Group’s acquisition of Liverpool.
“This could be a play by Soros on the strength of Manchester United’s brand and the English Premier League’s growing media rights,” Hall said. “The domestic rights are set to increase 70 percent for the 2013/2014 season and the international media rights, set to be announced in late October or early November, are also expected to come in at a very robust uplift.”
Another analyst, Sam Hamadeh, CEO of research firm PrivCo, was less sure.
“This seems like a vanity purchase. The stock was pitched to a lot of high net worth accounts and a lot of those people were interested in the stock for the same reason.”
He added: “We don’t believe Manchester United’s shares are worth any more than mid-single digits and there doesn’t seem to be any justification for what could eventually drive shares up.”
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