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Experts: 'King' Ferguson may be out but brand Manchester United will survive

By Oliver Joy, CNN
updated 3:50 AM EDT, Mon May 13, 2013
Alex Ferguson has announced he is retiring at the end of this season, having won his 13th English Premier League title in more than 26 years as manager of Manchester United. Alex Ferguson has announced he is retiring at the end of this season, having won his 13th English Premier League title in more than 26 years as manager of Manchester United.
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In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
In pictures: The reign of Alex Ferguson
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Experts: 'King' Alex Ferguson may be going but brand Manchester United will survive
  • Under Ferguson the team won more than 30 trophies, including 13 league championships
  • But the football team is bigger than just one man, brand experts tell CNN
  • Ferguson's retirement has already sparked speculation over his successor

(CNN) -- "King" Alex Ferguson is quitting Manchester United but the football team's $3.17 billion brand will survive, according to experts.

Ferguson -- the man who helped propel Manchester United to one of the world's biggest sport brands -- is set to step down at the end of the season after 26 years at the club.

The 71-year-old Scot has managed the English club -- which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has millions of fans around the world -- since 1986.

During his 26 years as manager, Ferguson has won more than 30 trophies, including 13 league championships.

Watch more: What is Sir Alex's football legacy?

Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson announced he will retire at the end of the English Premier League season. Ferguson has managed the team for 26 years, making him the longest-serving manager in Premier League history. Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson announced he will retire at the end of the English Premier League season. Ferguson has managed the team for 26 years, making him the longest-serving manager in Premier League history.
Longest-serving coaches in sports
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Photos: Longest-serving coaches in sports Photos: Longest-serving coaches in sports
How Ferguson inspires players
How to manage like Alex Ferguson
Ferguson's retirement 'a sad day'

And while brand expert Jonathan Gabay believes there will be a period of uncertainty at the club following the exit of a "living legend," the "Brand Manchester United" will survive long after his reign.

"The king is dead, but that doesn't mean there will never be a king again," Gabay told CNN, "He [Ferguson] is part of a legendary football brand, but he's not bigger than the actual brand itself."

Watch more: Watch 2012 interview with Ferguson

Andre Spicer, a professor of Organizational Behavior at the Cass Business School in London, said the loss of a "great leader" such as Ferguson is similar to "enduring a death" for a company.

Ferguson's retirement has already sparked a media and fan frenzy of speculation over his successor. Spicer added that fans will idealize the achievements of Ferguson and as such "it becomes impossible for a successor to fill the old leader's shoes."

Watch more: Manchester United's future after Fergie

The Scot's decision to retire and the appointment of his successor could also have a significant impact on the club financially

Since the first season of the English Premier League in 1992/3 season, Manchester United's revenue has grown from £25.2 million to £320.3 million for the 2011/12 season. "Manchester United has been transformed as a football club under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson," according to Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

While Andy Milligan, a partner at business consultancy, Caffeine, and author of football business book "Brand it Like Beckham," said that club owners, the Glazers, may go into "overdrive" in the next 24 hours to reassure global stakeholders that the club's stability, on the pitch, is not at risk.

Milligan said Manchester United's next appointment may be as much about reassuring investors outside the U.K. as it will be for sporting reasons.

Milligan told CNN: "Football is a very volatile market place. But if you add U.S. stock market pressures to football; it could be an explosive mix."

Manchester United's American owners, the Glaziers, listed the soccer club on the New York Stock Exchange in August and its growing commercial success is highly dependent on performances on the pitch, according to Joshua Raymond, a market strategist at London-based financial services firm, CityIndex.

"Replacing Alex Ferguson is a monumental task and one that shareholders will watch with great interest and nervous uncertainty," he said in a note on the firm's website.

Raymond wrote that the appointment of Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho would be "a much safer appointment in the eyes of the United board and shareholders" while the appointment of Everton manager and bookmakers favorite, David Moyes, would "come with great risk" due to his lack of experience with big clubs.

In his note, Raymond went on to say that Mourinho would be the only appointment that could increase the club's brand recognition.

Manchester United is one of the world's most valuable clubs -- second only to Spanish giants Real Madrid -- according to a study by financial experts, Forbes.

In the club's third-quarter results, the English Premier League champions posted record revenue of £91.7 million ($142 million) on the back of new sponsorship deals in Asia and Europe.

The club, who have just claimed their 20th league title, reported a 52.2% increase in sponsorship revenue having announced new deals with two financial services providers in Denmark and Vietnam as well as an agreement with a Japanese social gaming company.

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