Are Manchester Utd.’s sponsors in trouble?

Hostile takeovers are supposed to happen to widget manufacturers, not to the flesh and blood of athletic prowess. American Malcolm Glazer has taken control of the storied Manchester United soccer club, and the team’s fans are enraged and shocked. (Imagine if some obscure German financier succeeded in an unwanted bid for the Yankees.) Even though Glazer (shown here) launched his Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Super Bowl glory, United’s fans worry that his bottom-line priorities and massive acquisition debt will compromise their star-studded team. (Also, like most of his fellow Americans, Glazer reportedly has no personal interest in soccer.) While the Floridian has bought enough shares to take the publicly listed team private, some fanatical fans think they can still pressure Glazer to sell his more than 75 percent stake by boycotting team sponsors like Vodafone, Nike, Budweiser and Audi. But just as no one’s quite sure how much team affiliation has done to move those sponsors’ products, it’s unlikely that boycott efforts will have much effect on the sale of Bud, cross-trainers or TTs. Fans can now only hope United’s players keep their focus and competitive edge so sponsors don’t walk out on them.

—Posted by Noreen O’Leary