Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus insists Manchester United fans would be at the centre of his proposed takeover of the club.
Zilliacus, founder and chairman of investment company Mobile FutureWorks, has put together an offer that is being considered by the Raine Group, the firm overseeing a possible sale on behalf of the Glazer family.
The Finn, said to be a long-term United supporter, favours a ‘Nordic model’ that would see his consortium buy the club and then sell shares to supporters worldwide.
“It (United) was there long before all these people who are bidding for it were born and it will be here long after all these people who are bidding for it have passed away,” he told the I newspaper.
“The backbone of that institution is the fans and in that respect it’s hugely important the fans are at the centre of the decisions.”
Zilliacus says that if his bid is chosen, supporters will be given a say on major issues such as ground redevelopment and squad building, but not team selection.
Although an outsider and a latecomer to the race to buy United – becoming the third party to publicly declare an interest after Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani – Zilliacus claims his investment group should be considered serious contenders.
“I actually saw that the deadline was last Wednesday, literally on Wednesday morning and then I had to act very, very fast,” the former chief executive of Nokia in Asia said.
“I called the bank [Raine], told them we would like to participate, Raine said it was kind of late and they weren’t sure it made much sense.
“They discussed it internally and got back to us and said ‘OK, here’s an NDA [non-disclosure agreement], sign it then we’ll discuss the next steps after that’.
“We signed the NDA, put in a bid in general terms on Wednesday but then the deadline was extended to Friday, which gave us two more days to put in a revised bid, which had an actual number of what we were bidding, and that’s how it’s played out.
“I have been doing business all my life, I have started companies, bought companies, sold companies so I have a global network and I have done this on a global scale – first with the largest phone company in the world, Nokia, then with my own group.
“I have a network that spans the globe of people who want to participate in interesting ventures, and this certainly is one. To put together financing for something like this – and it is a big sum – is something I’m used to.”