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Glazer divides fans even in death

29 May 2014, 16:04

Tampa - Malcolm Glazer, the controversial American owner of English Premier League giants Manchester United, died Wednesday. He was 85.

Glazer -- the son of a Lithuanian immigrant who went on to build an diverse business empire -- gained a global profile through his ownership of United, one of the world's biggest and best supported football clubs.

But he was deeply unpopular with hardcore United fans after loading the club with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt following a 2005 buyout.

His death was announced on the website of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football team, one of his other sports franchises.

"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are saddened to announce the passing of Owner/President Malcolm Glazer earlier this morning at the age of 85," the statement said.

"A dynamic business leader, Glazer helped mold the Buccaneers into a model franchise and one respected league-wide."

Under Glazer's stewardship of the Buccaneers, the NFL team enjoyed its first Super Bowl success in 2002.

"Malcolm Glazer was the guiding force behind the building of a Super Bowl-champion organization," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday.

Shares of Manchester United slipped sharply on the New York Stock Exchange after Glazer's death was announced but finished the day unchanged in thin trade at $16.30.

Glazer's death is not expected to have any bearing on the ownership of the club, with his family retaining a 90 percent holding in United.

His sons Joel and Avram Glazer continue to serve as co-chairmen of the club. Another son, Bryan, remains on the United board.

"The thoughts of everyone at Manchester United are with his family tonight," the Premier League club said Wednesday.

- United fans still angry at debt -

Glazer's 2005 takeover of United in a leveraged $1.2 billion buyout triggered widespread protests amongst the club's fans.

Although Glazer's reign coincided with a glut of silverware -- including five Premier League crowns and the 2008 Champions League title -- he remained a hate figure for many supporters.

Manchester United Supporters' Trust vice-chair Sean Bones said: "It would be inappropriate for me to make any comment about the death of Malcolm Glazer as I didn't know him or his family personally.

"However, as a supporter, I am aware of the detrimental effect the Glazers have had on the football club and the huge debt that has been placed on Manchester United.

"Malcolm Glazer wasn't a board member and his children are on the board, so I don't think that situation changes much."

Some fans took to club forums to call for a respectful reaction.

One user on fan site RedCafe wrote: "say what you will... but he presided over the most successful period in the clubs history", while another urged fellow supporters to "keep it sensible", saying the death was "bound to be a flashpoint for some fans."

"I would hope most of our fans will be able to retain some level of civility, in spite of the general feeling towards what he and his family have done with regards to the club's finances," wrote one supporter.

Fans have complained that Glazer's ownership model has forced United to spend millions of pounds servicing the club's debt -- money which could have been spent in strengthening United's playing staff.

Nevertheless, Glazer found a consistent and vocal ally in Manchester United's legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who insisted the American had been "great" for the club.

"I am comfortable with the Glazer situation. They have been great," Ferguson said in 2012, a year before he announced his retirement.

"They have always backed me whenever I have asked them. I have never faced any opposition."

Glazer has had more success winning over the supporters of his NFL team. He bought the floundering franchise in 1995 from the estate of Hugh Culverhouse and then helped oversee the Bucs most successful period in the history.

The top five winningest seasons in team history have all come during Glazer's time.

After failing to reach the postseason in 14 straight seasons, the Buccaneers advanced to the playoffs seven times over an 11-year period from 1997-2007. They claimed their first and only NFL title during the 2002 season, capping it off with a 48-21 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Glazer was instrumental in Tampa, Florida winning bids to host the Super Bowl in 2001 and 2009.

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