Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, said early on Wednesday that he was joking when he tweeted hours previously that he was going to buy currently struggling English football club Manchester United.
“No, this is a long-running joke on Twitter. I’m not buying any sports teams,” Musk posted when asked by a user if he was serious about buying the club. “Although, if it were any team, it would be Man U,” he added, “they were my fav (sic) team as a kid.”
Musk originally tweeted: “I’m buying Manchester United ur (sic) welcome,” without offering any details. Some Manchester United fans, disgruntled by their club’s declining fortunes of late, had previously urged Musk on Twitter to consider buying the club.
The tweet turnaround comes as Musk seeks to exit a $44 billion agreement to buy Twitter only four months after announcing on the platform he would buy the social media company, which has taken him to court.
Musk has a history of being unconventional and posting irreverent tweets, making it difficult sometimes to tell when he is joking.
“Next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in,” he tweeted on April 27, two days after Twitter’s board accepted his unsolicited offer to buy the company.
Referring back to that post, on Wednesday he tweeted: “And I’m not buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in, despite the extreme popularity of such a move.”
Musk’s tweets about potential acquisitions have landed him in hot water with US regulators in the past.
In 2018, he tweeted that there was “funding secured” for a $72 billion deal to take Tesla private, but did not move ahead with an offer. Musk and Tesla each paid $20 million civil fines — and Musk stepped down as Tesla’s chairman — to resolve US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) claims that Musk defrauded investors.
The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Musk’s tweet that he was buying the club outside usual business hours.
Musk’s ambitions range from colonizing Mars to creating a new sustainable energy economy, and in the process he has built the most valuable car company in the world, electric vehicle maker Tesla, rocket company SpaceX, and a slew of smaller firms. One is a tunnel maker called the Boring Company.
Manchester United is one of the most famous names in world football but is currently in crisis on the field amid angry calls from fans for the club’s current owners, the American Glazer family, to pull out.
Clamour from fans and pundits for a change of ownership at the three-time winners of the European Cup, the most prestigious club competition in the global game, is intensifying amid a lengthening run without winning major titles.
British newspaper The Daily Mirror reported last year that the Glazers, who have faced widespread fan opposition to their stewardship since acquiring the club in 2005 for 790 million pounds ($957 million), were prepared to sell but only if they were offered in excess of 4 billion pounds.
In its annual rankings this year, Forbes rated Manchester United, with its huge global fanbase, the third most valuable football club in the world, worth $4.6 billion, behind only Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
But shares in the New York-listed football club have slid a quarter in the past 12 months, valuing it at just over $2 billion. The stock has rebounded in the past month, gaining 16 percent to close at $12.78 on Tuesday.
The northern England-based team has more than 32 million followers on its main Twitter account and Musk’s first tweet about the club had garnered more than 430,000 ‘likes’ on the platform within five hours.
Musk, who is worth $270 billion, according to Forbes, could certainly afford to buy the club.
Last week, filings revealed that Musk had sold $6.9 billion worth of Tesla shares, which he said could be used to finance a potential Twitter deal if he loses a legal battle with the social media platform.
In total, Musk has sold about $32 billion worth of Tesla stock in less than a year partly to pay tax obligations and finance a Twitter deal.
Musk and his lawyer did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment on his original Twitter post before his message that he had been joking. The Florida-based Glazer family did not immediately respond to requests for comment.