Thomas Zilliacus has entered the battle to buy Manchester United
LONDON - Thomas Zilliacus said in an interview published on Thursday that Manchester United supporters would be at the centre of his proposed takeover of the Premier League club, with a say on major issues such as ground redevelopment and squad building.
The Finnish businessman recently joined the race to buy United from the Glazer family, who announced in November they were considering selling the 20-time English champions.
The 69-year-old Zilliacus, who founded investment company Mobile FutureWorks, is the third potential buyer to go public with his interest in the club.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jaber Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe have also thrown their hats into the ring.
Both parties made second bids last week.
US hedge fund Elliott Investment Management, which sold AC Milan for $1.3 billion last year, has reportedly made a bid for a minority stake in the club.
No figures have been revealed by the Raine Group, which is handling the offers on behalf of the Glazers, but one or more of the initial bids is understood to be in the region of £4.5 billion ($5.5 billion).
The Glazers have reportedly put a price tag of £6 billion on the three-time Champions League winners.
Zilliacus, said to be a United supporter, favours a model in which his consortium would 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."
United fans have spent years complaining about the Glazers, even breaking into Old Trafford to force the postponement of a match against Liverpool in 2021 in protest at the Americans' unpopular reign.
Zilliacus said if his bid is chosen, fans would be given a say on major issues such as potential redevelopment of Old Trafford and squad building, but not team selection.
Although he is a latecomer in the takeover battle, Zilliacus is adamant his investment group should be considered a serious contender.
"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," he said.
"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."