AIG’s troubles and what it means for Manchester United

When Manchester United signed on with AIG in the biggest shirt sponsorship contract in footballing history, the move was seen as vindication of Manchester United’s position as the most marketable football brand in the world.

Today we read about the difficulties the insurance company faces and there is genuine concern that AIG will go belly-up. For Manchester United fans the details of AIG’s plight are irrelevant but it would be, at the very least, a major inconvenience for the club if they were forced to find a new sponsor in the middle of the global credit crunch at the same rates as AIG were willing to pay.

So how does AIG’s future look like?

The bad news is that the level of investment required to bail AIG out is colossal – AIG have already raised $20 billion this year and are looking to raise another $40 billion. They’ve turned down financing offers that would give other parties control over the company. They’ve registered $13 billion in losses for the first 6 months of this year. Their stock has fallen nearly 80% this year.

The good news (in all this mess) is that AIG is a much bigger and much more valuable company than, say, West Ham’s ex-sponsors XL. They have assets that they can auction off to raise the needed capital, and they have the political and financial clout to secure funding to help them ride out the storm. It’s tough, but it’s by no means unmanageable.

Long story short, expect AIG to see out this downturn in fortunes. Their deal with Manchester United – a paltry $30m/year – should not be under any threat (if they paid Manchester United 30m/day, it would take almost 2 years for them to run out of their $20 billion capital raised so far this year) at all.

And in the case AIG do fold up, I’m pretty sure Gill and co. will have sponsors lined up to take their place. And if they’re not paying as much as AIG, maybe we can get a better-looking logo the next time around?

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