Businessman and owner of ­Manchester United

Businessman and owner of ­Manchester United

Born: August 25, 1928 Died: May 28, 2014

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MALCOLM Glazer, who has died aged 85, was an American self-made billionaire who took over Manchester United in 2005 - a purchase that was bitterly opposed by fans of the club. He was also the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the American football team based in Florida which enjoyed great success under his ownership and was transformed from a laughing stock into a franchise that won the Super Bowl in 2003.

With a personal wealth estimated at £1.4bn, Glazer's £880m purchase of Manchester United was controversial partly because he appeared to have no real emotional interest in football -his heart was with American football - but also because the purchase meant the British club, one of the richest in the world, taking on around £575m of debt.

Glazer was born the son of Lithuanian immigrants in Rochester, New York, where his father ran a watch parts business. The fifth of seven children, he began working for the family firm when he was eight and took over the operation as a teenager when his father died in 1943.

By the time he was 21, he was running a franchise repairing watches at a military base and began an investment business, buying nursing homes, restaurants, trailer parks and other properties. He then created First Allied Corporation, the holding company for the family business interests of which he was president and chief executive, and continued to expand its interests, investing in television stations, real estate, gas and oil production and other ventures.

In the 1990s, he and his son Avram took control of Zapata, an oil company set up by George Bush Snr, future American president, before moving into the world of sport with the takeover of the National Football League's Tampa Bay Bucaneers in 1995. He paid what was then a record sum of £114m even though the Bucs was one of the worst-run and least successful franchises in professional sports.

He then spent generously to acquire players and provide coaches and front office personnel with the resources to do their jobs and they found success when coach Jon Gruden took the team to the Super Bowl final in 2002 and then again in 2003, which they won.

Glazer was a fixture at the games but in an era when many owners of professional teams attract nearly as much attention as the athletes, he was content to allow three of his sons handle daily operation of the Bucs and rarely granted interviews or visited the team's offices or training facility.

As Bucs owner, he was one of the driving forces behind construction of a state-of-the-art stadium built mostly with taxpayer money and also sank millions of his own into a new training facility and team headquarters that opened in August 2006.

He then turned his attention to British football, buying shares in Manchester United in 2003 before taking over the club two years later. Man U fans protested and burned Glazer's likeness in effigy because they feared the American was acquiring the famous British football club purely for financial gain.

At the time, Mark Longden of the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association said his group was calling on all supporters to wear black. "If they can get hold of black flags, they should wave them because it represents what is happening to the club," he said.

The club, though, has had success on the pitch since the takeover, winning the League Cup in 2006, 2009 and 2010, the Premier League from 2007-09, 2011 and 2013 and European Cup and Club World Cup titles in 2008.

Within a year of the leveraged buyout, Glazer had two strokes and his children ran the 20-time English champions, with all of them sitting on the board of directors and owning the remaining 90% of the club that was not listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.

Although United's debt has dropped from a high of £658,000 in 2008-09 to £353 million, anger toward the Glazers has remained among sections of the fan base. The family's divisiveness in Manchester has been exacerbated by its reluctance to engage with any supporters or speak publicly about the club.

Despite its worst league finish in 24 years this season, United has been generating record revenue, with turnover set to exceed £418 million in the 2013-14 financial year.

Before he bought the Buccaneers, Glazer made failed bids to land an NFL expansion franchise for Baltimore and purchase the New England Patriots, San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates.

He also tried to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers from Rupert Murdoch before turning his attention to Manchester United.

An intensely private man who cherished maintaining a low profile and spending much of his free time with family, Glazer also argued with four older sisters over his mother's estate - a legal battle that lasted more than a decade. He had been in failing health since 2006 when two strokes left him with impaired speech and limited mobility in his right arm and leg.

He is survived by his wife Linda, six children and 14 grandchildren.