Man U faction misses its big chance

The Flip Side

December 19, 2004|By Ed Waldman

The Brits were no-shows.

A week after suggesting they would disrupt Baltimore marketing maven Bob Leffler's annual holiday party because of his work for Malcolm Glazer, supporters of Manchester United were nowhere to be seen outside City Lights restaurant Thursday night.

Leffler, who has a 12-year association with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' owner, last month took over the public relations duties for Glazer's effort to buy a controlling interest in Manchester United. Glazer owns more than 28 percent of the world's most famous soccer team.

Man U fans, who oppose Glazer's bid for a variety of reasons, including the amount of debt he would incur, were upset when Leffler said the "only reason they hate [Glazer] - if they hate him - is xenophobia and fear of the unknown, it's not logic."

The fans responded with mischief directed toward Leffler's offices in Baltimore and Tampa, Fla., including sending unordered pizzas and large e-mail files that slowed the firm's computers.

But they didn't show at his party, disappointing a few of the 700 or so close, personal friends and clients of the Leffler Agency who attended.

J.D. Deitch, the U.S. representative of Shareholders United, a worldwide group with the long-term goal of accumulating enough shares of Manchester United to make it fan-owned, said yesterday he thought the party was this weekend.

"What a bummer!" said Deitch, an Alexandria, Va., native.

Last week Deitch said he wouldn't be surprised if "the passion of some of the supporters led them to try to make a more visible statement."

Although disappointed that the statement didn't happen, Deitch took the news in stride.

"We don't beat Malcolm Glazer by hassling Bob Leffler," he said. "We beat Malcolm Glazer by owning 50 percent of the shares plus one. We'll still hassle Bob Leffler, but we're still focused on the prize here, and the prize is the ownership of the club."

- Ed Waldman

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