Here on Macworld we’ve covered dozens of Apple acquisitions—both real and imagined—over the years. But the latest company that Apple is reportedly interested in buying is a weird one: the soccer club Manchester United.
The Daily Star reported Thursday that “bosses of Apple have expressed an interest in discussing a potential deal” with current owners Joel and Avram Glazer. The asking price was initially set at £8.25 billion (roughly $10 billion) but Apple is understood to be planning to spend something closer to £5.8 billion.
These are enormous sums in the world of sport and would smash the record price of £4.25 billion set by Chelsea FC in May. It would also represent a healthy profit for the Glazers, who bought Man Utd for less than £800m in 2005. But it’s comparatively small change for Apple, which earned its bid money in diminished iPad revenue alone last quarter.
We’ll go on the record before we go any further and say that this almost certainly isn’t going to happen. Apple has no experience running a sports team, and despite our flippant comment about iPad revenue, this would represent a colossal gamble. It’s wise to be skeptical about any Apple acquisition rumor, but even more so about ones involving Manchester United: as we’ve seen with Elon Musk and Conor McGregor, both of whom have claimed to be interested in buying the club, it’s an easy target for publicity hunters. Encompassing two of the biggest brand names in the world, this story is the perfect storm for rumormongers: if it wasn’t true, someone would make it up.
That said, there’s a certain appeal to the idea. “Ted Lasso,” the Apple TV+ comedy about a clueless but lovable American coach taking over a venerable British football team, is one of the service’s greatest successes of the past two years, and the company will soon start streaming MLS soccer matches in the US. Owning a Premiership club would give it leverage in expanding coverage overseas. And it would certainly be a great advertising tool to have Man Utd kits emblazoned with the Apple logo. (Though a potential wrinkle is that Qualcomm entered a “multi-year global strategic collaboration” with the soccer club in August, which could make for some fun meetings.)
But as interesting as the story is, it’s unlikely to be true. As they say in soccer, this is a knock-on pitching outside leg stump. Foul and a miss. New balls, please.