The Manchester United takeover saga may finally be coming to an end as Sir Jim Ratcliffe looks set to finalise a 25% stake in the club.
In October, Mail Online reported that the British billionaire was close to sealing a $1.57bn deal for a minority stake in the club that would secure control of United’s footballing operation and be viewed as the first phase of a staged buyout. It is now being reported that the deal could be just weeks away from completion.
Sheikh Jassim, from the Qatari bid, and Ratcliffe have long been considered the frontrunners in a process that has now spanned over a year. The prospect of a total buyout from Qatar and an end to the Glazer’s presence at United had excited sections of the fan base but it now looks like Ratcliffe is the man they will have to familiarise themselves with and trust to lead the Premier League giants out of a tough period.
Transfer news expert Fabrizio Romano claimed that the final bid from Qatar had been worth almost double the $3.5 billion market valuation of the club, and said the Sheikh had planned an extra $1.5bn of investment. Sky News was among the outlets to announce that they also understood the offer had been withdrawn.
In November it was announced that United’s CEO Richard Arnold would be stepping down from his role and that Patrick Stewart would step in as the interim. Jean-Claude Blanc is the man being tipped to replace Stewart in the new year on a full-time basis.
MORE: What is Jean-Claude Blanc’s sporting background?
Like Jassim, 70-year-old Ratcliffe claims to have been a boyhood Manchester United fan, albeit having grown up in slightly closer proximity to Old Trafford.
He hails from Oldham, Greater Manchester and is a trained chemical engineer — his entry point into the industry where he has made his fortune.
In 1992, Ratcliffe mortgaged his house to lead a buyout of a BP chemicals business, laying the foundations for Ineos, the chemicals giant he founded in 1998 when he purchased a BP plant.
Headquartered in London, Ineos manufactures a wide range of products, including synthetic oils and plastics and solvents used to make antibiotics and insulin.
It is also a significant presence in the shale sector in the UK, boasting 600 ft “Dragon Ships” that were the first vessels to transport shale gas from the USA to Europe.
Inoes’ growing scope and Ratcliffe’s burgeoning wealth gave him the opportunity to invest in various sporting passion projects.
Ineos came into the broader sporting consciousness when it bought the Team Sky cycling squad in 2019, with the UCI outfit rebranded as the Ineos Grenadiers.
Colombian rider Egan Bernal won the Tour de France in the first year of Ineos’ ownership.
Success elsewhere, particularly in France, has been harder to spot. Ineos bought Swiss football club Lausanne-Sport in 2017 and has presided over a pair of relegations from the country’s top flight.
In 2019, it bought French Ligue 1 outfit Nice.
“We made some mistakes at Lausanne, but we are fast learners, these have been rectified and we are already seeing the benefits,” Ratcliffe said after buying Nice.
“Clubs need to be successful off the pitch, as well as on it, and Nice will be no different.
“We have looked at a lot of clubs in the manner we look at businesses in Ineos — for value and potential — and Nice fulfils that criteria.”
Despite having high-profile head coaches Patrick Vieira, Christophe Galtier and Lucien Favre, the club have struggled to break consistently out of mid-table, although they made a strong start to the 2023/24 season under Francesco Farioli.
Ratcliffe made a late entry into the ownership race for Chelsea in 2022 and now appears to have lasted the course to make a decisive step towards taking control of United.
Outside of football and cycling, Ineos has sponsorship deals with Mercedes AMG F1, New Zealand’s national rugby union team the All Blacks and sailing team Ineos Britannia. The Mercedes agreement includes a 33% share of the team.
According to Forbes, Ratcliffe has a personal fortune of $18.7 billion.
As of October 16, 2023, this made him the richest person in the United Kingdom and the 86th richest in the world.