The JP Morgan connection: Manchester United chief exec Ed Woodward worked for US bank hoping to turn £4.3billion loans into European super league TV rights windfall

  • Ed Woodward, Manchester United chief exec, is driving the new super league
  • Woodward, unpopular among fans, was an investment banker with JP Morgan 
  • JP Morgan has promised to loan £4.3 billion to clubs involved in the super league

Manchester United’s controversial chief executive Ed Woodward has been revealed as one of the main drivers of the new European Super League. 

The club is one of six of England’s biggest who have pledged to join the much-derided breakaway league, which has been accused of threatening the soul of the game.

The league is being financed by JP Morgan, which will give the clubs £4.3 billion in loans as start-up.

Woodward, who was appointed chief executive of Manchester United in 2013, previously worked at the US investment bank in the mergers and acquisitions department before helping the Glazer family in its controversial takeover of the club in 2005.

The family were so impressed by him that they recruited him and they, together with Woodward and his old banking firm, are driving the new super league that has been widely condemned by outraged fans, players and politicians.  

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin branded Woodward a ‘snake’ in an explosive press conference about the new Super League today. 

Ed Woodward (far right) with the Glazer family, Manchester United’s controversial owners

Woodward was recruited from JP Morgan, the US investment firm bankrolling the new super league

He added that he ‘didn’t expect snakes in the grass so close to us’ in a remarkable discussion of the plans. 

Ceferin said Woodward had already signed Manchester United up for the Super League when he gave his support to Champions League reforms in a phone call last week.

‘I have seen many things in my life. I was a criminal lawyer. I have never seen people like that,’ said Ceferin. ‘If I start with Ed Woodward, he called me last Thursday evening saying he’s very satisfied with and fully supports the reforms and the only thing he wants to talk about was Financial Fair Play, when obviously he had already signed something else.’ 

Woodward stepped down from UEFA this afternoon after news of the super league emerged. 

It is sure to raise more pressure on a figure who is extremely unpopular with Manchester United fans. 

Woodward rose to his current role after the retirements of Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill and has overseen a controversial tenure in the years since. 

In November, Woodward told supporters at a fans’ forum: ‘We are at the centre of discussions about European club competitions. What I can assure you of is that we will keep match-going fans firmly in the centre of thoughts.’

However, despite this promise, Woodward failed to mention the new super league in a meeting with fans on Friday, just days before news of the plans broke. 

Woodward has been blamed for the club’s under-performance in recent years, with fans rounding on him as the face of the Glazer family. 

A  group of furious Manchester United supporters launched fireworks and a smoke bomb at the under-fire chief executive’s £2million Cheshire mansion last year. 

A mob of around 20 balaclava-clad supporters – some who are understood to be members of United’s notorious ‘Men In Black’ hooligan firm – launched an attack on Woodward’s luxurious Cheshire mansion near Knutsford, in which he lives with his wife, Isabelle, and two very young twin daughters.

He is the highest-earning director in the league and raked in £3.09million in 2019-20.

Joel Glazer (left), Avram Glazer (left) and Bryan Glazer (centre), shortly after they took over Manchester United

Supporters hold posters opposing Manchester United’s US owners the Glazer family

Woodward has often won praise for his commercial success with United.

Under his command, the club have endorsed a wide range of products around the world, including soft drinks in Nigeria, nutritional supplements in Japan and mattresses in Asia. 

It has also endorsed watches, hair grooming companies and betting firms in a policy copied by many top-flight clubs. 

However, despite the commercial success, the team has struggled to win on the pitch, having not won the Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. 

This has led to accusations from fans that Woodward and the Glazers put too much emphasis on the money side of the game, an argument strengthened by United’s ballooning debt under the current ownership. 

Net debt at the club is at over £450 million while the Glazer family have taken hundreds of millions of pounds in dividends over the years. 

The intervening years have strengthened anger at the Glazer takeover after supporters hit out at the debt the club was forced to take on as part of the deal. 

Woodward has been blamed for the club’s under-performance in recent years, with fans rounding on him as the face of the Glazer family

The majority of the capital used by the Glazers to purchase Manchester United came in the form of loans, the majority of which were secured against the club’s assets, incurring interest payments of over £60 million per annum. 

The remainder came in the form of payment in kind loans, which were later sold to hedge funds.   

Furious fans launched F.C. United of Manchester in 2005, which entered the North West Counties Football League and played in the sixth tier National League North from 2015 to 2019. 

Since 2005, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust has been working on a way of returning ownership of the club to supporters.

The Glazers have seen frequent protests against their ownership of the club and in 2010, a group of wealthy Manchester United fans, dubbed the ‘Red Knights’, discussed a billion-pound takeover bid. 

However, the bid fell through when the Red Knights refused to meet the Glazers’ valuation of the club.

News of the super league, and Woodward’s starring role in the proposals, is sure to anger more Manchester United supporters.  

The Financial Times reported that JP Morgan will charge an interest rate of 2% to 3% on the money it has lent to clubs.

Tim Bridge, a director at Deloitte, which produces an annual report on the finances of football, said the funding deal was “one of the biggest ever” and “a pretty seismic shift.”

JPMorgan is America’s biggest bank, with assets of over $3 trillion. 

Its business covers everything from retail banking under its Chase brand to investment banking and corporate lending.

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