Man United-bound Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group owns a Ligue 1 club, has invested in Formula One, rugby and cycling and is now set to shake things up at Old Trafford – but how has the £16.5bn man built his empire?
- Ratcliffe is close to completing a £1.3bn purchase of a 25% stake in Man United
- The INEOS chief is set to take control of the football operations at Old Trafford
- City had their pants pulled down by a development team – It’s All Kicking Off
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is close to finally completing his purchase of a minority stake in Manchester United, bringing the year-long uncertainty over the club’s ownership to an end.
The INEOS chief prevailed in a head-to-head battle with a Qatari consortium led by banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al Thani last month but now stands on the verge of finalising the £1.3billion acquisition of 25 per cent of the club.
Ratcliffe, a boyhood United fan, had initially lodged a bid for a majority stake in the club, however with no breakthrough in sight, an adjusted offer for a quarter did the trick.
United fans are still hopeful of eventually ridding themselves of the Glazer family, who have owned the Premier League giants since 2005, but will have to make do with the new arrangement that is expected to hand the petrochemicals billionaire control over football operations at Old Trafford.
Here, Mail Sport takes a look at the man who has supporters dreaming of a return to glory days.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe has completed a deal for 25 per cent of Manchester United for £1.3billion
Ratcliffe has his work cut out in his attempts to transform the fortunes of the Red Devils
Glazer family remain in control of the club despite initially looking to sell their majority stake
Ratcliffe is a former chemical engineer, founder and chairman of petrochemicals company INEOS Group. Originally from Failsworth, Oldham, he has an estimated net worth of £16.5bn ($20.5bn), according to Forbes.
His London-based conglomerate has become one of the UK shale sector’s largest players by producing a range of products, from synthetic oils and plastics to solvents used to make insulin and antibiotics.
The 71-year-old now sits atop a juggernaut with a reported turnover in excess of £59bn, that has an extensive portfolio of sporting investments.
Their interests include sponsoring the Mercedes Formula One team. INEOS also took over the professional cycling outfit Team Sky, won the Tour de France seven times, with the team now known as the INEOS Grenadiers.
The company also has ties to British sailing legend Ben Ainslie and they are a performance partner to the New Zealand rugby team.
However, most relevant to United and their supporters is the billionaire’s acquisition of French top-flight side Nice for £91m in 2019, which came two years after taking over Swiss team FC Lausanne-Sport.
There has been significant investment since their purchase, with the club spending €253m (£220m) in the transfer market now into their fifth season in charge.
But that injection of capital is yet to yield the level of on-field success many had anticipated, even allowing for the challenges of competing in Ligue 1 with state-owned PSG.
Since 2019 Nice have had six managers walk through the doors at Allianz Riviera. Patrick Vieira was dismissed in 2020, while Adrian Ursea, Christophe Galtier, Lucien Favre, and Didier Digard – on an interim basis – have been and gone with Francesco Farioli currently at the helm.
Although, it does now seem that years of churn have finally made way for a promising league campaign. Ratcliffe may have unsettled some Nice supporters in the summer when he announced a change in recruitment strategy that would see the club pivot from high-profile additions in the mold of Kasper Schmeichel, Ross Barkely and Aaron Ramsey, to upcoming young players.
INEOS became a one-third shareholder in the Mercedes Formula 1 team in December 2020
Ratcliffe has had success with the re-branded cycling team INEOS Grenadiers since 2019
Nice’s previous approach saw them sign established stars like Kasper Schmeichel and Aaron Ramsey on bumper deals
But in the first season under their 34-year-old coach, Nice have begun the campaign at blistering pace. They are just a point behind the leaders PSG and remain the only unbeaten side in the division after 12 games.
Last season’s disappointing ninth-place finish has made way for a Champions League push after statement wins against the Parisian giants, Monaco and Marseille.
However, that cannot immediately erase the dissent that had grown within the club following the perceived stagnation and muddled approach in years prior. In May club captain Dante was vocal in his criticism of the ownership.
‘To maintain a project, maybe you need to speak less about objectives and work in silence to create an environment of competitors.’ Said the Brazilian defender. ‘Because the expectation is even bigger, and then after, people are frustrated.
‘The best thing to do is to prepare as quickly as possible for next season in order to start it well.
‘Do you remember how many players came in at the end of the transfer window last summer?’ Dante continued. ‘Six left, six arrived. It’s difficult in these conditions. Simply, we mustn’t make the same errors.
‘If someone wants my opinion, the earlier we organise ourselves, the better it will be. If we want to aim higher, we have to anticipate things and put the values of the organisation in place.
‘When the coach [Lucien Favre] arrived, we said in two years that we would always be in the Champions League. It doesn’t work like that. Ligue 1 is very difficult.’
While it remains early in the season, it is possible that Nice may have at last landed on the correct structure off the pitch to deliver progress on it. This could bode well for Man United given reports Ratcliffe and INEOS plan to radically overhaul the club’s football department.
As could their previous attempts to find a way into English football. In 2019, Ratcliffe’s brother Bob revealed the group had aspirations of acquiring a team in England’s top-flight but found price to be prohibitive.
‘We spent quite a lot of time looking at Premier League clubs.’ The INEOS chief executive of football told the BBC.
‘[It’s] pretty difficult to rationalise purchases in the Premier League at this time for us and then, if you look below the top six, they’re all £150m and above and you’re going to write a cheque for £50m and get in the ‘Everton Cup’.
‘There was some early exchange [with Chelsea] but we were a significant way apart on valuations. The issue with is its stadium. We are all getting older and it is a decade of your life to resolve that.’
Nice’s incredible start to the season sees them sat in second in the league a point behind PSG
Ratcliffe was joined by INEOS director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford (to his right) and CEO Jean-Claude Blanc (front row, second right) to see Nice’s 1-0 away win over Monaco in September
Who is Patrick Stewart?
Stewart is Man United’s chief legal officer and general counsel.
The solicitor, who has worked for the club since 2006, is responsible for managing the legal and regulatory affairs as well as its relationships with football stakeholders.
Stewart was appointed to Man United’s board at the end of 2022, shortly after the Glazer’s announced the takeover process.
He also works as an arbitrator at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, after being nominated by the European Club Association in 2018.
Prior to joining Man United, Stewart worked for two leading UK commercial law firms and TEAM Marketing AG, the Swiss sports marketing agency responsible for selling commercial rights to the UEFA Champions League.
Three years later INEOS tabled a late bid to purchase the Blues but were beaten by the Todd Boehly-Clearlake consortium that shelled out over £4bn for the side.
Not only did the offer indicate their willingness to enter the high-stakes game of Premier League ownership, but – mindful of Ratcliffe’s comment on Stamford Bridge – it pointed to a readiness to commit to spending off the pitch as well as on it.
Now with control of United’s football operations Ratcliffe is embarking on a daunting task of transforming the fortunes of one of the biggest clubs in world football without ultimate authority.
Amid the understandable excitement of Red Devils supporters there is the rather sizeable Glazer-shaped elephant that remains at Old Trafford.
In the short-term there will be a shake-up of the club’s existing hierarchy. Chief executive Richard Arnold is stepping down from his position at the end of December and will make way for Patrick Stewart, United’s general counsel, in the interim.
Other changes are expected to follow, with reports of football director John Murtough and director of football operations David Harrison expected to follow Arnold out the door.
Then there is the reported interest in Crystal Palace sporting director Dougie Freedman, who has been in charge of the Eagles’ recruitment since 2017. He leads a shortlist of candidates that includes former Monaco sporting director Paul Mitchell as well as ex-Liverpool sporting directors Michael Edwards and Julian Ward.
Ratcliffe is also is set to pledge £245million to improve infrastructure at the club, with the bulk of the cash going towards the outdated facilities at Carrington.
This month Mail Sport revealed that despite the shortcomings at Old Trafford, it is estimated that between £150m and £200m has been earmarked to modernise United’s training ground.
Dougie Freedman, currently the sporting director at Crystal Palace, has been linked with a director of football role at Manchester United as Sir Jim Ratcliffe comes in at Old Trafford
Erik ten Hag has had to weather a range of storms at the club since his appointment in 2021
There is also the small matter of United’s on-field performances which have seen manager Erik ten Hag come under intense pressure, though last weekend’s narrow victory against Luton lifted the side to sixth in the table and five points off the top four spot.
Fans are unlikely to accept a similar blanket commitment to the recruitment of young players at Old Trafford. But a more considered transfer policy in line with the manager’s vision could eradicate the kind of embarrassing disciplinary issues that led to the expulsions of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho.
In all, the job at hand is large, unenviable even. A day supporters wished would mark the end of Glazer reign has instead seen them £1.3bn richer and still in command of three quarters of the club – as the 20th year anniversary of their arrival approaches.
But there is still hope for supporters. Liberated from the American’s influence in the most important part of a footballing institution – its football operations – fans can finally expect United to conduct themselves like many of their peers.
Joined-up thinking across departments, long-term plans, investment in infrastructure and a commitment to actually improving on the pitch. It’s not pretty simple, but it doesn’t mean it easy.
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