The UK-based billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe is interested in buying English Premier League soccer's sleeping giants Manchester United, a spokesperson has told media.
In response to a report on Bloomberg that the current owners of the club, the Florida-based Glazer family, are willing to accept bids for a minority stake in the Manchester club, Ratcliffe’s spokesperson told The Times newspaper: “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer.
“If something like this was possible, we would be interested in talking with a view to long-term ownership.”
The Glazers (five brothers and one sister) have been the owners of Manchester United since July 2005, when the family patriarch Malcolm Glazer bought the club for £790 million (approximately $1.5 billion at the time).
They have since become highly unpopular with the club's fans, partly to do with on-field performances during the last decade and partly due to the mechanics of the deal – a leveraged buyout through which their own debt following the takeover was loaded onto the club.
The club’s current value, according to the New York Stock Exchange on which it is listed, is £1.88 billion ($2.27 billion), but it has been reported that a takeover of the full club would cost the buyer around £5 billion.
Ratcliffe, 69, is the majority shareholder of the petro-chemical group Ineos and already has a substantial sporting portfolio. At points over the last decade, he has been the UK’s richest man, and the 2022 Forbes Billionaires List had his net worth estimated at $16.3 billion.
He owns French top-tier soccer club Nice and Swiss side Lausanne-Sport, as well as the Ineos Grenadiers cycling team, while Ineos also has a partnership in place with Mercedes, the dominant Formula 1 motor racing team of the last decade.
Although he claims to have been a Manchester United fan since childhood, Ratcliffe has long been associated with a potential takeover of their Premier League rivals Chelsea.
In May, the billionaire made an unsuccessful bid of £4.25 billion to buy the London club, only to be eventually beaten to the punch by US businessman Todd Boehly, who was leading a consortium.
Ratcliffe left the announcement and formal submission of his Chelsea bid until well after the scheduled deadline that had been set for bids, leading some to suggest this his submission had not been entirely serious.
Indeed, when asked during that process why he was not bidding to buy Manchester United, he answered that – at that point – the club was not up for sale. It has been suggested that this was essentially a way of discreetly signaling his interest.
Ratcliffe’s move comes with Manchester United fans planning a protest – the latest in a series of efforts to rid the club of the Glazers – ahead of their game against arch-rivals Liverpool on Monday (August 22).
The club is currently bottom of the 20-team Premier League with no points, albeit after only two games.
Ratcliffe’s spokesperson continued: “Jim is looking at what can be done now and, knowing how important the club is to the city, it feels like the time is right for a reset.”
It has been reported by The Times that, although the Glazer family would not be prepared to cede overall control of the club, through which they control its day-to-day running, certain family members are prepared to be ready to sell a minority of shares.
Although shares of the club can currently be bought on the open market, these have no voting rights – such rights only apply to the shares currently owned by the Glazers.
Aside from the team’s poor on-pitch form and the club’s debt, the owners are also unpopular due to their involvement in the failed European Super League project in April last year and because of their lack of serious investment in the club’s Old Trafford stadium.
No comment has yet been forthcoming from the Glazers over Ratcliffe’s interest.