Manchester United to sell up to 25% of EPL club to UK billionaire Jim Ratcliffe


More than a year after it was put up for sale, Manchester United said Sunday that British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe had agreed to buy a minority stake in the storied Premier League club.

Ratcliffe, who owns petrochemicals giant INEOS and is one of Britain’s richest people, has secured a stake of “up to 25%” in the 20-time league champions and will invest $300 million in its Old Trafford stadium.

As part of the deal, United said Ratcliffe would take responsibility for the club’s soccer operations.

Ratcliffe will provide $200 million upon completion of the deal and a further $100 million by the end of 2024, United said. In total the deal will be worth around $1.6 billion, including the $300 million of funding.

The deal is subject to approval by the Premier League.

Ratcliffe, who was born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, had originally bid to buy the entire majority share of around 69% held by the Glazers, the club’s American owners.

“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,” Ratcliffe said.

“Whilst the commercial success of the club has ensured there have always been available funds to win trophies at the highest level, this potential has not been fully unlocked in recent times. We will bring the global knowledge, expertise and talent from the wider INEOS Sport group to help drive further improvement at the club, while also providing funds intended to enable future investment into Old Trafford.”

The transaction will be funded by Trawlers Limited — a company wholly owned by Ratcliffe — without any debt, United said. United fans have been critical of the leveraged nature of the Glazers’ buyout that loaded debt onto the club, as well as a perceived lack of investment and the dividends taken out by the owners.

Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, United executive co-chairmen and directors, said in the statement: “Sir Jim and INEOS bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the club. And, through INEOS Sport, Manchester United will have access to seasoned high-performance professionals, experienced in creating and leading elite teams from both inside and outside the game.

“Manchester United has talented people right across the club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help bring our great fans more success in the future.”

The Glazers announced last November plans to seek new investment and instructed US merchant bank Raine to oversee the process, which included the potential of a full sale.

Ratcliffe had been in competition with Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani to buy out the Glazers, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But after months of protracted negotiations, Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid in October to leave Ratcliffe in position to take a minority share in the club.

Sheikh Jassim always maintained he was interested in a complete takeover.

United said Ratcliffe had paid $33 per share.

Decade of Decline

Ratcliffe is buying into a club that has endured a decade of decline on the field since the retirement of former manager Alex Ferguson in 2013. It has not won the title since.

Ongoing uncertainty over the ownership led to fan protests outside the club’s Old Trafford stadium, while chants of “Glazers out” have been regularly heard during games.

While Ratcliffe was long seen by fans as a popular potential owner, his minority investment means the Glazers remain in place, despite years of fan campaigns to drive them out.

The late tycoon Malcolm Glazer bought United in 2005 for 790 million pounds (then about $1.4 billion) amid a backlash from supporters.

“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,” United said Sunday.

Initially, Ratcliffe’s INEOS had said it was aiming for “a modern, progressive, fan-centered approach to ownership.”

It also said it was focused on United winning the Champions League for the first time since 2008 and making it the “number one club in the world once again.”

Ratcliffe is said to be worth $15.1 billion and tried to buy Premier League club Chelsea last year.

He already owns French club Nice, cycling franchise Team INEOS, is one-third shareholder of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team and competes in the America’s Cup with sailing team INEOS Britannia.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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