Sir Alex Ferguson formally announced yesterday that, after nearly 27 years at the helm of Manchester United football club, he is to step down and retire at the end of the 2012/13 UK Premiership football season. The Manchester United club he took over as manager was a privately owned company with ambitions to become a global brand and after the initial flotation in 1991, the business had the impetus to grow via a listing on the London stock exchange. The ground capacity was expanded as were the amenities inside and outside of Old Trafford, and with the advent of the Premiership and television exposure the corporate expansion was exponential with merchandising taking over income from attendances to drive up turnover and profits. Perhaps for supporters and shareholders the biggest negative aspect at the start of the last decade was the takeover by the Glazers and the switch from a cash rich business to one laden with debt. Indeed, the interest payments have made the investment such a burden that the Glazers had to float some of the shares on the New York stock exchange. Indeed after an initial drop of 4.5% in share value they recovered but remained down on the day at close of trading in New York.
With all the turbulence in the financial ownership of the business it took someone like Alex Ferguson to keep the “operational” part of the business stable, winning an impressive 38 trophies and building successful teams for over a quarter of a century. Consistency of high level achievement and continuous improvement is a mantra for well managed businesses, and it remains to be seen how a change will impact the performance on the pitch as well as off it over the next few years.
Apple has struggled since the major change at the helm, albeit enforced……….but what now for Manchester United?