Manchester United Said to Sign Mister Potato Deal Before Share Offering

Manchester United Ltd., the record 19-time English soccer champion, will sign a sponsorship deal with Malaysian snacks maker Mamee Double Decker Bhd. next month, said three people familiar with the matter.

The tie-up is with Mister Potato, a brand of potato crisps and chips made by the Kuala Lumpur-listed company, said the people who did not want to be identified before the signing and official announcement in the middle of September. The brand’s market share in Malaysia for potato products was as much as 48 percent last year, according to the company’s website.

The plan comes as the Premier League team plans an initial public offering in Singapore to raise $1 billion later this year, three people familiar with the IPO plans said last week. A stake of up to 30 percent may be sold, said one of the people. The club wants to cut financing costs and raise money that could be used for players. It spends about 45 million pounds ($74 million) a year to service a 500 million-pound bond.

The club, which Forbes magazine estimates is now worth $1.8 billion and Deloitte LLP says is the richest in revenue behind Real Madrid and Barcelona in a list published in February 2011, has about 190 million of its 330 million fans in Asia.

Manchester United declined to comment on the deal, as did Paul Anand, an outside spokesman for Mamee Double Decker.

“The multitude of local events we run with global and local partners, and a prospective forthcoming tour of Asia in 2012, necessitate expanding our footprint both with people and office space,” Manchester United said in a statement earlier this month. “This is consistent with the huge appeal of Manchester United in the region, borne out of nearly 40 years of visiting.”

Strategic Shift

The deal with Mamee Double Decker will allow the use of Manchester United’s Red Devil logo and images of star players such as Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez, according to one of the people familiar with the plan.

Under the U.S.-based Glazer family, the team’s owners, and former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker Edward Woodward, the team’s chief of staff, Manchester United changed the way it deals with sponsors in 2008 to capitalize on its global appeal.

The club has signed regional and sector-specific deals as well as preserving the rights of global partners, allowing commercial revenue, excluding shirt sales, to grow 10-fold to 40 million pounds since June 2008.

The team’s principal sponsor Aon Corp. (AON) agreed to pay 80 million pounds for the right to have its name emblazoned on the team’s shirt for four years. The contract with Mammee Double Decker, will be the latest to be signed with an Asian company,

Asian Sponsors

Existing sponsors from Asia include India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. (BHARTI), South Korean tire-maker Kumho Tire Co. and Thai beer brand Singha. In August, the club signed PCCW Ltd. (8) as its official telecommunications and broadcast partner for Hong Kong.

The team has won four Premier League titles and appeared in three Champions League finals, winning in 2008, since it was bought by the Glazers in 2005. A decline in performances on the field won’t affect its income from sponsors because none of the contracts carry success clauses.

Overall commercial revenue is close to passing 100 million pounds for the first time, which would bring it in line with the team’s broadcast and match day income. The club has 70 employees in a London-based commercial sales office and plans to relocate to a larger property. It’s also seeking to open an office in Asia. The team is seeking global partners in the energy, information technology and mobile-phone industries.

The club’s revenue puts it in third place globally for sales behind Spain’s Real Madrid and Barcelona. Last month, Premier League rival Arsenal announced record sales of 379.9 million pounds on property sales. Yet, the sales for the team’s soccer activities declined by 1.3 percent to 222.9 million pounds.

To contact the reporter for this story: Sanat Vallikappen in Singapore at vallikappen@bloomberg.net; Tariq Panja in London at tpanja@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chitra Somayaji at csomayaji@bloomberg.net; Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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