Loveable money-making machine (aka ‘blood-sucking vampire squid’) Goldman Sachs is reportedly in danger of being dumped by the loveable Glazer family, owners of loveable Manchester United, after its top economist emerged as one of the public faces of the Red Knights consortium interested in buying the club. Not surprisingly, the Glazers are apparently a bit miffed that Goldman boffin Jim O’Neill has been telling the world that they’ve loaded too much debt onto the club, since it was – you guessed it – Goldman that helped them do it. Now they may be threatening to take their business elsewhere. Meanwhile, United CEO David Gill has dismissed Seymour Pierce boss Keith Harris as a self-serving publicity hound. It’s hard to imagine a spat with a less sympathetic cast of characters...
The ding-dong follows news earlier in the week that a gang of City boys including O’Neill and Harris – the Red Knights, as they’ve modestly dubbed themselves – had one measly meeting about the possibility of buying Manchester United (notwithstanding that they don’t have the money yet, and the Glazers aren’t interested in selling). O’Neill, who as Goldman’s chief economist is one of the bank’s most public faces (and it doesn’t have many), has been a vocal opponent of the Glazer regime, arguing publicly that ‘there’s too much leverage going on with Manchester United’. And he’s now a leading figure in the Red Knights group.
Now you might argue that O’Neill (who it’s compulsory to describe as a ‘lifelong’ Man U fan) is perfectly entitled to his own opinion; after all, it’s a free country, and so on and so forth. But there’s a catch: O’Neill’s bank Goldman Sachs was one of the underwriters of the Glazers’ recent £500m bond issue – so if he’s wondering who to blame for United being knee-deep in debt, O’Neill doesn’t have far to look. No wonder, then, that the Glazers have supposedly contacted Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein personally to complain about O’Neill's comments, threatening (the FT says) to cut their ties to the bank if he doesn’t get with the programme.
Since making huge pots of cash pretty much trumps all at Goldman (particularly niceties like free speech), we wouldn’t be surprised if O’Neill got a stern talking-to as a result of that phone call. After all, the Glazers are a major client. Perhaps this is why Goldman generally seems to have a policy of never talking to the press? It just complicates the unfettered pursuit of wealth...
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