Sir Jim Ratcliffe took part in a live interview with the Financial Times this evening amid rumors about his interest in buying Manchester United football club.
The interviewer noted that Ratcliffe “expressed interest in acquiring Manchester United or Chelsea immediately, but refrained from this line of questions, instead deciding to get an idea of his ownership style at Nice, a Ligue 1 club. entrepreneur.
“For the first couple of years we stayed away from Nice, and this summer we became more involved.”
The suggestion that Ratcliffe might take his time making changes if he were to acquire Manchester United bodes well for Eric ten Haag’s project at the club.
Incremental improvements behind the scenes at the executive level could allow the Dutchman to grow without interference from above.
It was possible to get additional positive feedback from Ratcliffe even before the discussion focused on United.
“It’s not a permanent thing, a debt,” Ratcliffe said. Although this remark actually refers to INEOS’ reaction to changes in the energy market, it is certainly a line that will strengthen the hopes of Red Devils fans.
Debt-free United, able to make full use of its own revenues, would be a daunting prospect for Premier League rivals.
Combine that with appreciation for constant, intelligent planning, and it becomes clear why a potential takeover led by Ratcliffe would appeal to so many United fans.
Ratcliffe mentioned his reputation for acting on the basis of intuition about his acquisition of BP in 2005, a company that at that time was three times larger in revenue.
“We didn’t meet the manager. We didn’t visit the site. The comprehensive review was… limited.” Nevertheless, Ratcliffe considered this acquisition “transformative” for INEOS, despite fluctuations in the industry since then.
“We’ve quadrupled overnight,” he said, demonstrating the value Ratcliffe attaches to rapid expansion and his unwavering confidence in his own judgment.
Ratcliffe’s heart beat when he confirmed offhand that he had made a $5 billion deal this morning, but declined to give any details about the company.
It is unlikely that this was for Manchester United, given the level of secrecy that had to be involved to hide such a high-profile deal from the media. But perhaps it’s worth noting that any deal of this magnitude will require more secrecy to keep silent.
He gave another hint when discussing a meeting with the owner of Manchester City, Khaldun Mubarek.
“I came over to talk about chemicals, and after about two hours and fifteen minutes we moved on to the topic of chemicals. You can imagine what we were talking about. He told me some instructive stories about his success in football, which helped me a lot.”
The idea that City’s owners can help bring United out of Glazer’s control is not without irony.
But this was soon followed by Ratcliffe, who seemed to pour cold water on suggestions he could take on himself.
“I’ve been rooting for Manchester United all my life. I was there in ’99. Manchester United belongs to the Glazer family, whom I met. They are really good people and they don’t want to sell it.
“We cannot sit and wait for Manchester United to become available.”
No doubt this will upset fans who, in general, are desperate for the removal of the Glazers.
But not everything is as it seems with high-level corporate relations, and Sir Ratcliffe hinted that owning Manchester United is still an ambition.
“If it was sold in the summer, we would probably try it.
“The most popular sport in the world is football, and we should have a premier club as an asset.”
If Manchester United becomes that asset, Ratcliffe insists he will manage the club differently.
“The biggest dependence of success in football is money. Not the only one, because there are exceptions. Manchester United have money and they were one of those clubs that are at the top, but they don’t play in the leagues of these other teams and they haven’t played since Sir Alex retired. So there’s something else wrong here.”
But before anyone can solve such problems, the Glazers’ grip must loosen.
Perhaps Ratcliffe’s suggestion that he could apply for some other “premier club” could help in this regard – after all, having different options is usually a good way to get sellers to lower their prices.