MANCHESTER, England. In the 14 years since an Abu Dhabi-linked investment company bought Manchester City, the emirate’s wealth has transformed the football club from a Premier League football club into a serial national champion and one of the world’s sporting powers. .
However, the breadth of this investment extends far beyond the Etihad club stadium. Thursday report researchers in England. In it, the report’s authors said the club’s owners benefited from what they called a “kind deal” with local legislators that allowed them to buy vast tracts of public land in Manchester at substantially reduced prices.
A 65-page report published by scientists at the University of Sheffield states that Manchester lifeA joint real estate development venture between Manchester City Council and the Abu Dhabi United Group, a private equity firm owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and brother of the country’s president, resulted in “a transfer of public wealth into private hands that is hard to justify as prudent.”
In recent years, Manchester has been seen as the standard bearer of British urban renaissance, overcoming years of post-industrial decline and transforming its city center into a vibrant and desirable one. Its building and property boom was second only to London; according to some indicators it is English fastest growing city.
The Manchester City ownership group was central to this, investing millions of dollars in disadvantaged areas in close proximity to the stadium, which bears the name of the state-backed UAE airline Etihad. When the Manchester Life venture was launched in 2014, six years after the group bought the football team, it was designed to expand that investment into Ancoats, an area sandwiched between the stadium and Manchester city centre.
However, the researchers claim that ADUG benefited more from the deal than its partner. They found that nine lots in the Ancoats area were sold to holding companies registered in the offshore tax haven of Jersey but ultimately owned by an investment company, at prices below the comparable market value of similar lots.
Manchester City Council insisted that each of the deals in which United Group’s holding companies received property leases for 999 years told researchers that all proposals had “been considered in the best possible way”. Yet despite the city’s chronic homelessness problem, developers have been exempted from meeting affordable housing obligations by planning officials who have ruled that the area has enough supply to meet demand, the report said.
The report also concluded that the “traceable rental and sales revenue streams” from the 1,468 homes built on these sites so far “only go to Abu Dhabi’s interests.” While Manchester City Council claims to have a revenue-sharing arrangement with its partners, the researchers said they found no “Manchester Life investment income in the council’s accounts”.
While the property management company that oversees the development recorded £10.1 million in rental income in 2021 (just over $12 million), the researchers found that because it is ultimately owned by a Jersey-based holding company, it only paid £4,000 in the form of corporate taxes.
“Our assessment of Manchester Life’s development is that Manchester City Council ‘sold family silver too cheap’,” the researchers concluded.
This is especially harmful, they say, in light of the “reputational risks” for lawmakers in the British city, who are sufficiently intertwined with a group backed by the autocratic state’s elite, which Amnesty International calls one of the “most brutal cops”. states of the Middle East. In recent years, countries such as Russia, China, Qatar as well as Saudi Arabia all were accused of using money and influence, in particular in sports, as a way to wash their reputation. But investment in property as well as other enterprisesand the people who provide them also have close attention.
“In the long term, there are questions about what values and whose values the city represents,” the researchers wrote of the land deals approved by Manchester council, adding: “This is important because Manchester is being hailed as a model for urban regeneration that other authorities should follow.” this example, but if this model is built around attracting developers in the short term by selling access to their assets at a discount, then this may be an unreliable and sustainable model for others.”