Ineos is targeting Manchester United in a new step in Ratcliffe’s comprehensive marketing strategy

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe before the French Cup final between his owner Nice and Nantes at the Stade de France on May 7, 2022. (AFP / BERTRAND GUAY)

British petrochemicals group Ineos, which is already a takeover bid for OGC Nice owner Manchester United, has been increasing its investment in sports since 2017, from football to cycling, as well as athletics and sailing.

Ineos, run by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest men, said on Tuesday it had contacted investment bank Raines, which was commissioned by Manchester United’s current owners, the American Glazer family.

“I can confirm that we are officially committed to the process,” a spokesperson for the group told AFP, confirming the information reported by the BBC.

For their part, the Glazers had no comment on the launch of Ineos.

The 70-year-old Ratcliffe, a prominent supporter of the “Red Devils”, who is 111th in the ranking of the planet’s billionaires in 2022 and is estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth $15.5 billion, has already expressed interest in Manchester United several times. Chelsea were finally sold last May to an American consortium for a record £4.25 billion.

But there is still a long way to go before a possible deal with the Glazers, who have controlled Manchester United since 2005 and are hoping for bids of around £5bn (€5.8bn), which would be a record sum.

Ratcliffe could face a competing offer from Saudi investors in particular. Saudi Arabia’s Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal indicated in November last year that there was possible “interest” in selling Manchester United, as well as Liverpool.

– Flag cycling, sightseeing football –

Landing one of Europe’s biggest clubs, the Red Devils, would be a new foray into the sport for Ineos, whose 2019 acquisition of the Sky cycling team impressed. “Sky was the benchmark in terms of performance in a sport that particularly emphasized the name of the sponsor,” deciphered for AFP Vincent Chaudel, founder of the sports business Observatory.

The former team of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome won six Tours de France between 2012 and 2018; pocketed the 2019 edition of the Grand Loop with Colombia’s Egan Bernal, renaming it Ineos. Even if the Ineos-Grenadiers are few at the front of the peloton today, dominated by UAE’s Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma, cycling continues to provide first-class visibility for the Ratcliffe group.

In football, obviously, the British billionaire, who is at the crossroads of marketing strategy due to the popularity of the No.1 sport in the world, has yet to succeed in such a spectacular coup. In 2019, it acquired OGC Nice after the Lausanne Sports Club, which was bought in 2017. But none of them are in the media and Manchester United have no experience.

“The most popular sport in the world is football, and it’s the sport we’re closest to,” Ratcliffe told a conference organized by the Financial Times last October. “So we should be there.”

– Technology –

Ineos also entered the world of athletics in October 2019, carefully and spectacularly organizing his first marathon run with Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchpoge in less than two hours (1 hour 59 minutes and 40) on the streets of Vienna, Austria. seconds) – performance not approved by the International Athletics Federation, taking into account very specific competition conditions.

The brand also represented the highly prestigious America’s Cup, one of the sport’s oldest races, with the Britannia monocoque, and appeared in the single-seater cars entered by the Ineos-owned Mercedes team in Formula 1. Two sports where technology is essential.

However, nothing predestined Jim Ratcliffe to become a billionaire and knighted by the queen growing up in social housing around Manchester.

A former chemistry student at the University of Birmingham and an MBA from the London Business School, he founded Ineos, which he still owns a majority, in his 40s, then grew it through a flurry of acquisitions.

Ratcliffe, who is based in the principality of Monaco, known for its discreet, impossible tax system and has never taken his group public, rarely speaks to the press. Before the marathon project with Kipchoge, he said, “We’re making billions. What’s wrong with investing a little in sports?”


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