Elon Musk tweets he was joking about buying Manchester United

Musk is probably as serious about buying Man Utd as he is about buying Twitter. — Reuters

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.

ALSO READ: Elon Musk says he was joking about buying Manchester United

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.

ALSO READ: ‘You’ll be glad you bought a flamethrower’: The tweets of Elon Musk

Musk’s Manchester United tweets could attract fresh regulatory attention, since the club has traded on the NYSE since 2012.

“When someone in his position makes comments about buying an entity, people start speculating: ‘is he joking, not joking, half-joking?’” said Hui Chen, an ethics and compliance consultant who served as the first compliance counsel expert at the US Department of Justice. “His actions have major impact on markets and he really needs to be cognizant about the potential implications.”

Trading volume in Manchester United shares and options spiked before Musk’s tweets. Open interest in call options increased to more than 60,000 contracts from around 20,000 contracts within just two trading days last week, with one call option showing 37,630 contracts changing hands on Aug 12, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Chelsea sale

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,” the Telegraph newspaper reported.

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, the Telegraph reported. – Bloomberg

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