Sir Jim Ratcliffe has vowed to return Manchester United to “the very top of English, European and world football” after agreeing a £1.25billion deal to buy a 25 per cent stake in the club.
The Old Trafford outfit announced on Christmas Eve that the chairman of INEOS, who will assume delegated responsibility for football operations, had entered into an agreement, which is “subject to customary regulatory approvals”, which will also see him invest US dollars 300million – more than £236million – to refurbish the debt-laden club’s infrastructure.
However, it is boyhood fan Ratcliffe’s promise to put United “back where we belong” which will excite fans who have been in open revolt against owners the Glazer family, who launched a strategic review of the business in November last year.
Manchester United reaches agreement for Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman of INEOS, to acquire up to a 25% shareholding in the Company.#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 24, 2023
Ratcliffe said: “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.
“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.
“We are here for the long term and recognise that a lot of challenges and hard work lie ahead, which we will approach with rigour, professionalism and passion. We are committed to working with everyone at the club – the board, staff, players and fans – to help drive the club forward.
“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.”
Under the agreement, INEOS will acquire 25 per cent of the Class B shares owned by the Glazers and tender an offer for up to 25 per cent of the Class B shares at USD33 each in a deal which will not add to the club’s existing debt.
In addition, he will inject USD200million – £158million – on completion to upgrade Old Trafford and a further USD100million – £79million – by the end of 2024, taking his total investment to around £1.25billion.
Executive co-chairmen and directors Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, who announced a strategic review 13 months ago, said: “We are delighted to have agreed this deal with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS.
“As part of the strategic review we announced in November 2022, we committed to look at a variety of alternatives to help enhance Manchester United, with a focus on delivering success for our men’s, women’s and academy teams.
“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.”
Ratcliffe found himself engaged in a lengthy battle with Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim after it became apparent that the club – or ultimately part of it – could be up for sale.
Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid for full control in October with a long-running saga showing little sign of reaching a conclusion until Ratcliffe’s focus shifted to the pursuit of a significant minority stake.
The deal was announced by United at 4pm on Sunday in a statement which read: “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 Red Devils have not lifted the Premier League trophy since 2012-13, Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season at the helm, and last won the Champions League in 2008.
Confirmation of INEOS’ investment was given a guarded welcome by the Manchester United Supporters Trust.
A statement read: “Today might – just might – be a step forward for Manchester United after some very difficult years. But with the Glazers still in charge, people should understand that United fans will remain sceptical and wait for the proof in the pudding.”
Manchester United 2023 has been a disgrace to the end. The timing of this is truly awful and no functioning organisation would even think about it. Anyway all the very best to Jim Radcliffe and I hope he can somehow work out a way to get the club right again and back to being…
— Gary Neville (@GNev2) December 24, 2023
Former United defender Gary Neville was less than impressed by the timing of the announcement.
“Manchester United 2023 has been a disgrace to the end,” he wrote on X.
“The timing of this is truly awful and no functioning organisation would even think about it.
“Anyway all the very best to Jim Ratcliffe and I hope he can somehow work out a way to get the club right again and back to being something respectable on and off the pitch.”