LONDON — Elon Musk caused a stir by tweeting that he was buying English football team Manchester United – whose current owners are opposed by many fans – then saying several hours later it was a joke.
It comes as Tesla’s billionaire CEO faces a legal battle in the US after walking away from a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. He is a prolific user of the platform, often mulling over social issues or joking with his 103 million followers and occasionally getting in trouble with US regulators.
Early Wednesday, Musk sent out a tweet about his political affiliations, then added in a second tweet: “Also I’m buying Manchester United, you’re welcome.”
This has been shocking news to the world of Manchester United – although welcome to many – after nearly a decade of lackluster performance.
Asked by a follower if he was serious, Musk then tweeted: “No, this is a long time joke on Twitter. I don’t buy any sports teams.
This wasn’t Musk’s first joke about buying a popular franchise. In April, he tweeted, “Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back on.” He noted in the Manchester United thread that the Coca-Cola tweet had also been a joke.
Musk previously breached the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over tweets claiming he had the funds to take Tesla private in 2018, which sent the electric vehicle maker’s stock price skyrocketing. This led to a securities fraud settlement requiring his tweets to be cleared by a Tesla attorney before being published.
He now faces further legal issues over the deal to buy Twitter he brokered in April. Musk sold about $8.5 billion worth of Tesla stock to help fund the purchase and lined up a diverse group of other investors to back him.
The deal fell apart last month after Musk said Twitter refused to provide him with enough information about the number of fake accounts on the platform. Twitter could have tried to get him to pay a $1 billion severance fee which he agreed to, but is instead suing to force him to complete the purchase. The case is expected to go to trial in Delaware in October.
Musk, with his seemingly limitless potential to buy the best football players in the world, would have been a welcome prospect for many Man United fans who want to see the club back at the top of the game.
Man United were arguably the greatest team in world football under Alex Ferguson’s management, winning 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies. But since Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, the team has struggled to win trophies.
Last season United finished 35 points behind champions Manchester City – the club’s local rivals – and there were protests against the Glazer family, the team’s American owners.
Many supporters of the club’s huge international fanbase have opposed the Glazers since they took over in 2005, in part because they financed the takeover by putting the club into debt for the first time in decades. .
The latest low came on Saturday when United lost 4-0 to Brentford, a small west London side who won promotion to the Premier League in 2021. It was United’s second successive defeat to open the season, the leaving in last place the 20- first league team.
Manchester United Supporters’ Trust, known as MUST, condemned the owners after last weekend’s game.
“What we witnessed tonight was an embarrassment – no, a humiliation – for Manchester United fans. And yet, in many ways, it was no surprise. It feels like the culmination of a long-term travel direction,” the fan club said in a statement. “MUST hold Club owners primarily responsible for this new low in our decade of decline.”