It was finally a Merry Christmas in 2023 for Manchester United fans.
On 24 December, the club announced that Sir Jim Ratcliffe would acquire a 25 per cent stake in the club after months of speculation. The deal is worth around $1.57 billion and means Ratcliffe’s company, INEOS, will be in charge of the sporting aspects of the club, including “all aspects of men’s and women’s football operations and academies”.
Sheikh Jassim of the Qatari bid and Ratcliffe have long been seen as frontrunners in the process, which has now taken more than a year. The prospect of an outright buyout from Qatar and the end of Glazer’s presence at United have excited sections of the fan base, but Ratcliffe is a man they will need to get to know and trust to lead the Premier League giants out of a difficult period.
Transfer news expert Fabrizio Romano claimed that the final offer from Qatar was worth almost double the club’s market valuation of $3.5 billion, and said the sheikh was planning a further investment of $1.5 billion. Still, Ratcliffe’s offer is believed to have been favored because it valued the shares at a higher price and allowed the Glazers to retain an overall majority stake.
In November, it was announced that United CEO Richard Arnold would step down from his role and that Patrick Stewart would step in as interim. Jean-Claude Blanc is the man expected to replace Stewart full-time in the new year.
Who is Sir Jim Ratcliffe?
Like Jassim, Ratcliffe, 71, claims to have been a Manchester United fan as a boy, despite growing up a little closer to Old Trafford.
Originally from Oldham, Greater Manchester, he is a trained chemical engineer – his entry point into the industry where he made his fortune.
In 1992, Ratcliffe mortgaged his house to lead the buyout of BP’s chemical business, laying the foundations for INEOS, the chemical giant he founded in 1998 when he bought the BP plant.
London-based INEOS makes a wide range of products, including synthetic oils and plastics and solvents used to make antibiotics and insulin.
It is also a major presence in the UK shale sector and boasts 600ft long ‘dragon ships’ which were the first vessels to transport shale gas from the US to Europe.
The growing scale of INEOS and the growing wealth of Ratcliffe gave him the opportunity to invest in various sporting passion projects.
What sports teams does INEOS own?
INEOS entered the wider sporting spotlight when it bought UCI outfit Team Sky in 2019, rebranding it 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, was harder to find. INEOS bought Swiss football club Lausanne-Sport in 2017 and 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 in Lausanne but we are learning quickly, they have been corrected 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 looked at a lot of clubs the way we look at businesses at INEOS – for value and potential – and Nice fits that criteria.”
Despite having high-profile head coaches in Patrick Vieira, Christophe Galtier and Lucien Favre, the club have consistently struggled to break away from mid-table despite a strong start to the 2023/24 season under Francesco Farioli.
Ratcliffe entered the race to own Chelsea late in 2022 and now appears to have held out for a decisive move to take control of United.
Outside of football and cycling, INEOS has sponsorship deals with Mercedes AMG F1, the New Zealand All Blacks national rugby team and the Ineos Britannia sailing team. The deal with Mercedes includes a 33% stake in the team.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe net worth
According to Forbes, Ratcliffe has a personal fortune of $18.7 billion.
As of 16 October 2023, he became the richest person in the United Kingdom and the 86th richest in the world.