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Top Manchester United shareholder rebukes club over ESL plot

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Manchester United protest -  Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester United protest - Martin Rickett/PA

One of Britain’s top fund managers and a major backer of Manchester United and Juventus has chastised the football clubs over their botched efforts to launch the breakaway European Super League.

Nick Train, one of the largest external shareholders in both clubs, said they had damaged their reputations and warned he was reviewing his investment.

Mr Train, who runs the Lindsell Train fund group, said he had met with the clubs after the announcement of the breakaway and "expressed our disappointment about the reputational damage Juventus and Manchester United have inflicted on themselves".

In his first public comments on the ESL since the collapse of the plans, Mr Train said the clubs now had to regain trust. "We urged them to return to respectful negotiations with all members of the football community to work toward mutually beneficial ends," he said.

"We continue to monitor events closely as they unfold, while considering the implications for our investment case."

Mr Train is one of the largest shareholders in Manchester United outside of the Glazer family, with a 7pc stake in its shares worth $178m (£126m). He is the largest external shareholder in Juventus, holding a 10pc stake worth €92m that is second only to the Agnelli family's shareholding.

His funds are popular among British investors, who hold them in their Isas and pensions. The largest, the £8.3bn Lindsell Train Global Equity fund, holds shares in Juventus while his stake in Manchester United is held in the £6.7bn Lindsell Train UK Equity and £2bn Finsbury Growth & Income funds.

Mr Train is a relative rarity among British fund managers in investing in football clubs, also owning a stake in Celtic.

"Our investment case is based on the expectation over the long term the value of these iconic institutions should rise as football's global following expands and digital media allows fans to engage more deeply with the clubs they support," he said.

His stake in Manchester United dates back to the 1990s, when the club listed its shares on the London Stock Exchange. After selling up as part of the Glazers' takeover in 2005, Mr Train later bought shares back from the family in 2017, after the stock had listed in New York.

Shares in Manchester United and Juventus rose sharply last month when the ESL was announced. They fell back after the plans collapsed following the withdrawal of the six English clubs which had signed up to the controversial competition.