Sir Jim Ratcliffe has played down the prospect of making a bid for Manchester United, saying the Glazers do not want to sell and he “can’t sit around hoping” the club will one day become available.
The billionaire chairman of Ineos admitted he had been interested in acquiring United in August after failing to buy Chelsea in the summer. But speaking at an FT Live conference, Ratcliffe suggested he was now more focused on making Nice a serious player in Ligue 1 than buying United.
“I’m a lifelong Manchester United fan,” Ratcliffe said. “And I was there in that most remarkable match in 1999 in Barcelona, which is deeply etched in my mind. Manchester United is owned by the Glazer family. I met Joel and Avram, and they are the nicest people. They are gentlemen. And they don’t want to sell. And it’s owned by the six children of the father, and they don’t want to sell.
“If it had been for sale in the summer, yes, we would probably have had a go following on from the Chelsea thing. But we can’t sit around hoping that one day Manchester United will become available.”
Ratcliffe, who has a sporting portfolio that includes the Ineos Grenadiers cycling team, a third of the Mercedes F1 team, and Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team, did accept he could invest more in football, saying: “The most popular sport in the world is football, and it’s the sport closest to us, so we should have an asset.” However, when asked whether it could be in the Premier League, he replied: “Well not a Premier League, a premier club. I think Nice has got a very interesting history. It’s an old club and it is a very attractive place for footballers as there is Californian climate down there.”
Ratcliffe then went on to note how Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain had broken into the world’s elite thanks to serious investment. Ratcliffe also claimed that if he had bought Chelsea in the summer he would have run it very differently than the club’s new American owners.
“When Chelsea came up for sale the three bidders were all American financial institutions,” he said. “And so they were looking at Chelsea as a financial asset. Whereas we looked at it as a community asset. So our view was that had we bought Chelsea, we would never have owned Chelsea. We would just have been the custodians for a period of time. It’s like St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s part of the community and you shouldn’t treat it as a financial asset.
“And, interestingly, they can’t invest in the major football clubs in America. Because America doesn’t allow venture capitalists to buy sports clubs in America. So they come over to the UK and they buy ours.”