London: British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe already has interests in football, Formula One and cycling. He now owns a slice of his boyhood club, Manchester United.
It was announced on Sunday that the founder of chemicals giant INEOS had bought a 25 percent stake in the Premier League giants after a protracted saga. Ineos joined the race to buy United early this year after the club’s owners, the Glazer family, said they were willing to listen to offers.
United fan Ratcliffe, who made an unsuccessful bid to buy Chelsea last year, has long been linked with the Old Trafford club.
The 71-year-old already has an impressive sporting portfolio that includes French club Nice and Swiss team FC Lausanne-Sport.
In 2019, cycling powerhouse Team Sky became Team Ineos and the following year Ineos bought a one-third stake in the Mercedes Formula One team.
Ratcliffe and Ineos confirmed their bid for majority ownership of Manchester United in February and went head to head with Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who subsequently pulled out of the race.
The group vowed to make the Old Trafford side the “No 1 club in the world again” after a decade of under-achievement.
They also pledged to be “the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community”.
Ratcliffe has not got quite what he wanted, with the Glazers still the majority shareholders at Old Trafford.
The Americans, who completed a leveraged takeover in 2005, saddling the club with huge debts, have proved deeply unpopular with supporters.
Ratcliffe, nevertheless, will feel he can play a part in restoring United to the pinnacle of English and European football after a chastening decline since Alex Ferguson won the last of the club’s 20 Premier League titles in 2013.
He is one of Britain’s wealthiest people - Forbes estimates his net worth at $23 billion (#18.1 billion).
But the glitzy world of international sport is a long way from Ratcliffe’s humble beginnings, growing up in social housing near Manchester in northwest England.
Ratcliffe founded INEOS in 1998 and the company went on to become an industrial juggernaut in Britain.
It operates 194 sites across 29 countries, generates $65 billion annually and employs more than 26,000 people.
Ratcliffe has continued to diversify INEOS, entering the automotive sector to build the INEOS Grenadier, intended to be a successor to the Land Rover Defender.
Despite his business success, Ratcliffe has remained something of an enigma.
The Englishman, who has skied to the North Pole and South Pole and climbed the Matterhorn, is a risk-taker but says he does not take unnecessary chances.
“To give you an example, I won’t and would never jump out of an aeroplane, because you either live or die depending upon how well someone’s packed your parachute,” he told The Times earlier this year.
“I’m quite careful, but you’re only here once so you get more out of life if you challenge yourself a bit more.”
How much of a risk Ratcliffe considers United to be is a matter for conjecture.
Ineos says it is in the business of “helping extraordinary athletes achieve extraordinary things”.
Time will tell whether Ratcliffe can help turn around the fortunes of a club desperate to return to former glories.