Who is Sir Jim Ratcliffe? The billionaire buying 25% of Manchester United – and how he made his fortune

Who is Sir Jim Ratcliffe? The billionaire buying 25% of Manchester United – and how he made his fortune
  • PublishedDecember 25, 2023

Fans who are disillusioned by the club’s direction under the polarising Glazer family will be hoping Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a life-long Manchester United fan, will help both on and off the pitch. Here, Sky News looks at what we know about the billionaire – and what impact he could have.

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The UK’s second-richest person is committing £245m of his multibillion-pound fortune to Manchester United as part of a deal to acquire a 25% stake.

Fans who are disillusioned by the club’s direction under the polarising Glazer family will be hoping Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a lifelong Manchester United fan, will help both on and off the pitch.

It has been widely reported that he will be granted some form of control over the football side of the business as part of his agreement to buy a quarter of the club.

Many observers suggest the deal will include an agreed route to assuming full ownership or control.

Here’s a look at Sir Jim’s professional background, how he acquired his fortune, why the billionaire wants a stake in the club – and what impact he could have.

What does he do for work?

Sir Jim is the founder, chairman and majority owner of British petrochemicals empire Ineos. The firm says it generates $65bn (£52.6bn) of revenue every year.

A former chemical engineer, Sir Jim founded the company in May 1998 to lead the buyout of a BP chemicals business.

The site in Antwerp was bought for £84m and employed 400 people.

Today, Sir Jim’s Ineos operates 194 sites across 29 countries and employs more than 26,000 people.

How much is he worth?

A total of £29.7bn, according to the 2023 Sunday Times Rich List.

The 71-year-old is second only to Gopi Hinduja and his family, who are behind the Indian conglomerate Hinduja Group, and are worth £35bn.

Second place marked a meteoric rise for Sir Jim, who ranked 27th in the 2022 Rich List.

He was certainly no pauper back then, though; boasting an estimated wealth of £6.075bn.

His worth has fluctuated in recent years. He topped the UK-only list in 2018, when his personal wealth was estimated at £21.05bn.

Sports ventures

His deal with Manchester United would be far from his first step into the sporting world.

Sir Jim and his chemicals company cohort have become prominent in football, Formula 1, cycling and rugby in recent years, through their sporting branch, Ineos Sports.

Here’s a timeline of all of Sir Jim and Ineos Sports’ deals.

• December 2010 – Ineos becomes front-of-shirt sponsor of Lausanne Hockey Club

• November 2017 – Ineos takes over Swiss football club FC Lausanne-Sport

• April 2018 – Sir Jim takes over a British sailing team to create what is now Ineos Britannia, led by one of the most successful Olympic sailors of all time Sir Ben Ainslie

• May 2019 – He acquires the British cycling team now known as the Ineos Grenadiers

• August 2019 – He buys top-tier French football club, Nice

• December 2020 – Sir Jim becomes part-owner of the Mercedes Formula 1 team. He owns a third alongside Daimler and Toto Wolff

• July 2021 – Ineos becomes New Zealand Rugby and the Teams in Black kit sponsors, in a multi-million pound deal

• January 2022 – Ineos forms a partnership with record-breaking Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge and the NN Running Team that he is part of.

Why does he want to buy into United?

The most important perceived factor has been the fact the billionaire was born in Manchester and has been a life-long supporter of the club.

However, he had made his goal of buying into a Premier League side clear long before bidding for the Old Trafford club.

In April 2022, he tabled a bid to buy Chelsea for £4.25bn, eventually losing out to a consortium led by American businessman Todd Boehly.

It was the second time he had been linked with the London club, having explored in detail a possible bid back in 2019, only to end up buying French club Nice instead.

The devil is in the detail

Here’s a look at how Sir Jim’s deal with the Glazers is expected to work.

Sky News exclusively revealed the billionaire would pledge to make the £245m investment alongside the acquisition of a shareholding likely to be worth more than £1.25bn.

Sources told Sky News’ Mark Kleinman the £245m investment would be staggered, with the bulk of it being handed to the club by the end of the year.

They added that it would be financed by Sir Jim personally and would not add to United’s existing borrowings.

Adding together the cost of the stock purchase and the other capital for investment means that Sir Jim will be committing about £1.5bn on day one of his United interest, although that figure could vary depending on the price he ultimately pays for the shares.

One source close to the talks said the additional £245m investment would be focused on United’s physical infrastructure, and not on addressing deficiencies on the playing side of the club.

What’s the problem at Man United?

It’s no secret that United are struggling both in their domestic and European competitions in the early stages of this season.

They were also knocked out of the Carabao Cup by Newcastle in November.

United won that same competition last year and managed to finish third in the league under manager Erik ten Hag, who impressed in his first season at the helm.

But those achievements were still nowhere near the heights fans became accustomed to during Sir Alex Ferguson’s near 27-year career as manager, in which United won more than 30 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles.

The last time United won the league was the same year Sir Alex retired, 2013.

They have gone through five permanent managers in the 10 years since – David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Erik ten Hag, as well as interim manager Ralf Rangnick and caretaker managers Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick. Nearly £2bn has been spent on players in that time too.

The current owners

The relative lack of success has piled pressure on the already widely reviled Glazer family, who have purportedly been trying to sell the club for the past year.

American tycoon Malcolm Glazer took control of United in June 2005, but the deal was hugely unpopular with fans because it was financed primarily through loans secured against the club’s assets.

Within a year of the leveraged buyout, Mr Glazer had two strokes and his six children – Avram, Joel, Bryan, Kevin, Darcie and Edward – ran United, all of them sitting on the board of directors.

The Glazers’ £790m takeover loaded United with debt that was at around £500m this time last year. The club were debt-free before the takeover.

There have been regular protests at Old Trafford ever since the initial takeover.

Although the Glazer family has continued to make large amounts of money from United, fans’ anger has been exacerbated by the perceived incompetence they have overseen on the football side of the club.

Other clubs – including many with much smaller resources than England’s most successful ever side – have established far more effective structures and scouting set-ups which see them sign players who fit into a long-term strategy which successive managers are expected to adhere to.

United, however, have employed and later sacked a series of coaches with contrasting footballing philosophies, with hundreds of millions spent on players to suit each manager’s approach.

It has left the club with one of the league’s highest wage bills and with players who are difficult to sell because their salaries are so high despite their underperformance on the pitch.

Could Sir Jim turn the club around?

Former Man United captain and current Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville – who has been a vocal critic of the Glazers, gave Sky Sports News his views on the potential Ineos buy-in.

He said: “What we need to hear is the full proposal and how it is going to work.

“You don’t sit here as a Manchester United fan, wholly impressed by the idea of £245m going in to improve the stadium… we know that is not actually going to touch the sides properly of a full refurb of Old Trafford but what it is, is a significant amount of money – and Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a smart and successful businessman.

“He’s not going to put £245m into something and let it go down the drain, so I suspect it is probably the first instalment of some sort of plan that means that they will phase the refurbishment of the stadium over two or three different seasons. It sounds to me like they will do it in phases.”

Sir Jim’s influence is key, says Neville

Neville also suggested the amount of control Sir Jim is afforded by the Glazers could prove to be just as pivotal as his investment.

“I’m hoping he is negotiating to take as much power and control as he possibly can and fixing as many things as he possibly can so that the Glazers can’t wriggle on him when he gets through the door,” Neville said.

“There is a lot to do at Manchester United and Sir Jim Ratcliffe with his 25% stake is not going to be able to fix everything on day one, but what I would hope is that he is able to communicate a clear plan.

“We must be clear that the football side of things is the most important thing, first-team performance, that needs to be dealt with first and will make everybody feel better about themselves.

“He will have to impact the culture of the whole club, and the feeling in the whole club, he will have to touch every point in the club.”


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