Copy of 493483-01-02-1707844681926
Manchester United's English striker Marcus Rashford in aciton during the English Premier League match against Aston Villa at Villa Park in Birmingham on February 11. Image Credit: AFP

London: British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of a 25 per cent stake in Manchester United was ratified by the Premier League on Tuesday after he passed the organisation’s Owners’ and Directors’ test.

The $1.25 billion deal, in which the INEOS chairman will also invest $300 million into club infrastructure and take charge of the club’s soccer operations, was struck in December but still faced hurdles, including Premier League approval.

“Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s acquisition of 25 per cent of Manchester United FC, and further investment of $300 million in the club, has been approved by the Premier League Board following the completion of the OADT,” a statement read.

“The Board agreed to the change of the club’s ownership structure last week, and this has now been officially ratified by an Independent Oversight Panel. The Premier League’s Owners Charter has also been signed.

“The Premier League now awaits confirmation of the transaction’s completion.” The Football Association still needs to rubber-stamp the 71-year-old’s investment in United but that is seen as a formality ahead of the extended Feb. 17 deadline to finalise the deal.

Strategic options

Shares in the club rose 8% on the New York Stock Exchange, on course for their best one-day percentage gain since August 7.

Lifelong supporter Ratcliffe’s purchase ended more than a year of uncertainty after majority owners, the Glazer family, said in November 2022 they were looking at strategic options for investment into the club they took control of in 2005.

The American Glazers have come under heavy criticism from fans who blame them for a steady decline in the fortunes of the 20-time English league champions after a period of domination under manager Alex Ferguson who retired in 2013.

Many fans had hoped the Glazers would sell the club in full, although Ratcliffe’s investment has been welcomed.

In its statement the Premier League said it was the first acquisition of control to be reviewed and approved by a new Independent Oversight Panel following changes to the process which were agreed by Premier League clubs in March 2023.

The changes included a lowering of the control threshold requiring Premier League Board approval from 30 per cent to 25 per cent.

Lot of challenges

Ratcliffe’s INEOS, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies, has a large sporting portfolio. It also owns French Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss Super League side FC Lausanne-Sport as well as top cycling outfit INEOS Grenadiers.

“We are here for the long term and recognise that a lot of challenges and hard work lie ahead,” Ratcliffe said in December after agreeing a deal to become a minority shareholder.

“Our shared ambition is clear: we all want to see Manchester United back where we belong, at the very top of English, European and world football.” Since then he has kept a fairly low profile although he was in attendance at United’s home game against Tottenham Hotspur last month alongside INEOS director of sport Dave Brailsford.

United have shown signs of improvement under Dutch manager Erik ten Hag of late after suffering their worst start to a campaign since 1962. A 2-1 victory at Aston Villa on Sunday left them sixth in the standings, only six points off the top four.

Apart from returning the club to the top of the English game on the pitch, Ratcliffe is expected to upgrade the iconic Old Trafford stadium which is now showing its age.