Man United chief executive David Gill to step down

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By ROB HARRIS, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Manchester United chief executive David Gill said Wednesday he is to step down in June after a decade at the helm of one of the world's most valuable sporting clubs.

His move will deprive long-time manager Alex Ferguson of one of his closest confidants at the soccer club that was taken over in 2005 by the Glazer family, who also own the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Gill's responsibilities from July 1 at New York-listed Manchester United will be assumed by executive vice chairman Ed Woodward, although he will remain on the board that will eventually choose Ferguson's successor as manager.

Ferguson has been manager since 1986 and his tenure has delivered unprecedented success for the club, which currently leads the English Premier League by 12 points. He has yet to say when he plans to retire.

"I am looking forward to continuing my involvement on the club board," Gill said. "And I hope to be able to make a contribution to the game on a wider national and European level."

Ferguson heaped praise on Gill, who will be standing for election for the ruling body of European football, UEFA, in May.

"We have had a million arguments, but I have always enjoyed them because I know that David has two great qualities: he is straight and he always puts Manchester United first," Ferguson said.

Following six years as finance director, Gill became chief executive in 2003.

The buyout by the Glazers angered some fan groups because of the debt that was loaded onto the club. But those liabilities have been cut in half in the past three years to 366.6 million pounds ($567 million), partly from the proceeds of last August's flotation on the New York Stock Exchange.

Forbes last month said United's enterprise value, which subtracts debt from equity value, has risen to $3.3 billion, the highest for any sports team in the world.

Last week, United forecast revenue of between 350-360 million pounds ($535-550 million) for 2012/13.

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