Elon Musk joked on Twitter about buying Manchester United Plc, letting four and a half hours go by before clarifying he was kidding about purchasing the English football club listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
The Tesla Inc chief executive officer and world’s richest person sent his initial missive about the storied club in a reply to an earlier post about his political allegiances. When a Tesla fan club account asked whether Musk was serious, he replied no, he isn’t buying any sports teams.
Manchester United shares jumped 17% at the start of early trading Wednesday, though the stock quickly pared gains and was up 3.2% to US$13.19 (RM58.94) as of 4.15am New York time.
Musk has a long track record of tweeting in jest. He has also run afoul of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, most infamously for tweets in 2018 about taking Tesla private. That led to securities fraud charges, and a settlement that included appointing a “Twitter sitter” to approve Musk’s Tesla-related tweets.
More recently, he has drawn scrutiny from regulators over a May 17 tweet that his US$44bil (RM196.48bil) takeover bid for Twitter Inc “cannot move forward”. In a June 2 letter, the agency asked why the billionaire didn’t amend an earlier SEC filing to reflect an apparent material change in his plan to acquire the company. Musk sought to terminate the deal last month, leading Twitter to sue in an attempt to make him complete the transaction.
Musk’s Manchester United tweets could attract fresh regulatory attention, since the club has traded on the NYSE since 2012.
Manchester United is valued at US$4.6bil (RM20.54bil), according to Forbes. In the most recent sale of a Premier League powerhouse, a group led by Todd Boehly agreed to buy Chelsea FC from sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich for £4.25bil (RM22.98bil), including future investments.
Musk did tweet that if he were to buy any one team, it would be Manchester United because it was his favourite growing up. Andrew Ward, the club’s director of media relations and public affairs, declined to comment.
Manchester United, who have won a record 13 Premier League titles, is currently last on the table after a disastrous start to the season under new coach Erik ten Hag, losing its opening two games – including a 4-0 defeat to Brentford on the weekend.
Fans have protested the performance of the storied club under the ownership of the Glazer family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At the opening home game of the season – a 2-1 loss to Brighton – a large group of fans walked toward the stadium with banners that read: “Fight greed. Fight for United. Fight Glazers” and “We want our club back,”.
United won its last Premier League title under legendary coach Alex Ferguson in the 2012-13 season, and has since fallen behind crosstown rival Manchester City, which has won four of the past five titles. Wantaway star striker Cristiano Ronaldo will be allowed to leave Manchester United this summer if he can find a club to buy him.