British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has agreed a deal to buy a 25 percent stake in Manchester United for about $1.3 billion, vowing to return the Premier League club to the “top of world football”.
United also announced in a statement on Sunday that Ratcliffe’s INEOS company would take control of football operations after years of under-achievement under the Glazer family.
And the 71-year-old chairman of the global chemicals giant will provide substantial funds for future investment in the club’s outdated Old Trafford stadium.
It brings to an end a lengthy saga that began 13 months ago when United’s unpopular US owners said they were considering “strategic alternatives” to help the club grow.
The American family bought the club for £790 million ($1.47 billion at the time) in 2005, loading the 20-time English champions with debt.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and Ratcliffe made offers in the region of £5 billion for a complete takeover, but that fell short of the Glazer family’s valuation.
Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid to buy 100 percent of the club in October while Ratcliffe continued to pursue a minority shareholding.
“The joint ambition is to create a world-class football operation building on the club’s many existing strengths, including the successful off-pitch performance that it continues to enjoy,” the United said in their statement on Christmas Eve.
Ratcliffe, who tried to buy Chelsea last year, grew up in the Manchester region and describes himself as a committed fan.
“As a local boy and a lifelong supporter of the club, I am very pleased that we have been able to agree a deal with the Manchester United board that delegates us management responsibility of the football operations of the club,” he said.
He said the expertise and talent from the wider INEOS Sport group would be harnessed in the drive for success, underlining that it was a long-term project.
“Our shared ambition is clear,” he said. “We all want to see Manchester United back where we belong, at the very top of English, European and world football.”
Dave Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling, is expected to have significant influence in his role as INEOS’s director of sport.
The club said Ratcliffe would acquire 25 percent of the Class B shares held by the Glazer family and up to 25 percent of its Class A shares, which are traded in New York.
Ratcliffe’s proposal values United at $33 a share.
Under the deal, an additional $300 million will be provided for investment into United’s outdated Old Trafford stadium.
– Commercial experience –
Executive co-chairmen and directors Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer said Ratcliffe and INEOS “bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the club”.
Ratcliffe’s group has extensive involvement in sport, owning French Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, as well as the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team.
United have not been crowned Premier League champions since Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge, in 2013.
They languish eighth in the Premier League this season, 12 points behind leaders Arsenal, and have been knocked out of the League Cup and the Champions League.
Manager Erik Ten Hag’s position is also likely to come under close scrutiny, with the Dutch coach failing to build on ending United’s six-year trophy drought by winning the League Cup last season.
The Manchester United Supporters Trust said fans would be left with “mixed feelings”, with the Glazers still in overall charge at Old Trafford.
“During 18 years of debt, decay and mismanagement, Manchester United fans have loudly and consistently called for change at our club,” MUST said in a statement.
They added: “Fans have very mixed feelings today. We welcome the investment from a boyhood red, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS company, but many will wish his ownership stake was greater.”
The club said the deal was “subject to customary regulatory approvals” but are “hopeful it will be completed as soon as possible”.