It's official. Manchester United will trade on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
But not at the price the team wanted.
Late Thursday, the iconic soccer club priced its initial public offering (explain this) at $14 a share, below the $16-20 price range.
The pricing of 16.7 million shares will raise $233 million and value the company at $2.3 billion. Half of the proceeds will pay down some of the team's $680 million debt, while the
At the high end of the range, Manchester United would have been valued about $1 billion more.
"It is the best price for the deal," said a source close to the deal.
Jefferies acted as the lead underwriter, and multiple sources said the firm handled this transaction with as much care as any deal in its history.
"Everyone saw what happened with Facebook," said one source, who spoke on the condition on anonymity.
In that vein, the stock trading well is much more important than pricing at the high point or above the range. Pricing at the low end will be considered healthy if the stock makes a positive move when it opens on Friday morning.
Plenty of questions remain on this IPO. The first is: Who is buying?
Is it a growth company?
It's listed as one, yet the soccer club is more than 130 years old.
Is it a luxury brand as the company purported on its roadshow?
It's a difficult stock to categorize, and that left several fund managers unsure if it fit into their investment paradigms.
Then, there's the team's balance sheet. The Glazers acquired the team in 2005 for $1.2 billion. At that time, the franchise had no debt. Today, debt is approaching $700 million. Just servicing the debt has a negative impact because it's millions that cannot be spent on paying for elite players.
If you consider that the Glazer's will retain full control because of the dual-class share structure, it's not a great case for the institutional investor.
However, the team is profitable and it recently signed a half-billion dollar deal with General Motors . It also boasts 659 million fans worldwide and says it has only just begun to monetize that base. Plus, the IPO roadshow was well attended
It's an intriguing dynamic, and in the near term, there is only more major game to play: The trading game.
Starts Friday morning thousands of miles from where the Red Devils will start their season in less than two weeks.
— By CNBC's Brian Shactman
Follow Brian Shactman on Twitter at @bshactman.