He’s the son of a joiner who grew up in a council home in Oldham however now splits his time between mansions and luxurious flats.
He’s the union-busting proprietor of an organization that turns fossil fuels into plastics, employs 1000’s, champions manufacturing and believes capitalism can remedy the planet’s largest environmental issues.
He’s a tax exile who moved his firm’s headquarters again to the UK from Switzerland and stored Scotland’s largest refinery open, however then rowed again on a bid to construct the “religious successor” to the Land Rover Defender in Wales, selecting to do it in continental Europe as a substitute.
He backed Brexit, albeit a smooth one, however thinks the UK authorities’s stance on fracking is “pathetic”.
He’s a chemical engineer who turned to finance however has spent the final 5 years shopping for up sports activities groups and a vogue label.
He’s a lifelong Manchester United fan who bought Golden Objective tickets as a young person at Hull Metropolis, thought of shopping for Chelsea or Newcastle United (amongst different Premier League golf equipment) just a few years in the past however purchased Good of the French high flight as a substitute, and is now attempting to purchase Chelsea once more.
Women and gents, meet Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a chap who sounds as sophisticated because the polymers he sells however who named his Defender-inspired 4×4 after a pub and who needs that automobile to be one thing “you’ll be able to dampen, inside and outdoors”.
A billionaire of the individuals, then, however which individuals?
However none of you actually needs to learn a enterprise profile of Ratcliffe, how he based Ineos at 45, spent a decade shopping for petrochemical companies with borrowed cash, navigated the worldwide recession of 2008 after which diversified into companies you and I’ve really heard of, like sports activities groups.
You wish to know if he can be Chelsea’s subsequent proprietor. And if he’s, what sort of proprietor he’ll be.
The excellent news on that entrance is that for somebody with a status for valuing their privateness, the 69-year-old has been remarkably keen to reply questions when requested.
Put “Sir Jim Ratcliffe interview” right into a search engine and you will see that conversations with main journalists, ‘Ask the boss’ classes for the Ineos YouTube channel and relaxed chats about topics starting from fuel storage to beers with Sir Ben Ainslie, probably the most profitable sailor in Olympic historical past.
This shy, shy man was at it once more on Wednesday, talking to the BBC in Madrid. He was within the Spanish capital to observe Actual Madrid vs Manchester Metropolis within the second leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Requested why he needed to purchase Chelsea, he mentioned he has made no secret of being considering shopping for a Premier League membership, he has a home in Chelsea, his firm HQ is up the highway in Knightsbridge and he has been an everyday at Stamford Bridge for years. He then mentioned soccer is the world’s hottest sport, the Premier League is the world’s largest league and Chelsea are among the best golf equipment in that league.
He admitted to having a “break up allegiance” between Manchester United, the membership of his youth, and Chelsea, the membership of his maturity, however when requested why he doesn’t attempt to purchase United, he gave a businessman’s reply: They don’t seem to be on the market. We are going to come again to that.
On his imaginative and prescient for Chelsea, Ratcliffe opened up.
“I’ve all the time had this view that London and the UK are very a lot within the centre of the world of soccer — it’s the place a lot of the cash in soccer is and, after all, we’ve been very profitable as a rustic within the largest competitions lately,” he mentioned.
“Now we have six nice golf equipment — three within the north, three in London — however, should you have a look at London, it’s by no means had a workforce of the stature of Bayern Munich, Actual Madrid or Barcelona, (one) that’s persistently been within the final eight of the Champions League. So, our ambition for Chelsea, as a result of I feel Chelsea could be an excellent candidate to be that membership in London, could be to be that membership that might maintain its personal all the time.
“In different phrases, a membership that may have the identical stature as town of London. That’s how we might measure ourselves if we had been profitable in shopping for Chelsea.”
Flag-waving nonsense? A cynical attraction to a populist authorities determined for British success tales?
Perhaps, however does it have extra substance than Lord Sebastian Coe telling UK radio station LBC that the bidding group he’s concerned with, one that’s nearly solely financed by American cash, is British?
And Ratcliffe, a minimum of, has a observe file of costly patriotic ventures.
That drink with Ainslie, Britain’s most well-known sailor, was a £100 million punt on attempting to grow to be the primary British winner of the America’s Cup. They got here up quick final yr however have already thrown down the gauntlet for the subsequent version of the 171-year-old contest in 2024. Their crusing workforce known as Ineos Britannia.
He additionally purchased Manchester-based biking outfit Staff Sky in 2019, rebranded them Staff Ineos after which Ineos Grenadiers. Grenadier, by the best way, is the title of the aforementioned 4×4 and that pub in London’s Belgravia. The biking workforce have continued to win races, too.
And final yr, he purchased a 3rd of UK-based Components 1 workforce Mercedes-AMG, teaming up with one other British sportsman and tax exile, Sir Lewis Hamilton, who simply so occurs to be a member of the identical Chelsea bidding group as Coe. It’s a small world.
And we must also point out that Ratcliffe’s first funding outdoors the extra business-to-business world of petrochemicals was Belstaff, the clothes label based in Stoke in 1924. Well-known for its bike jackets, it’s an inherently British model based mostly on that concept of aristocratic sportiness however it had “fallen” into abroad possession till Ratcliffe rescued it in 2017.
However the factor you will need to always remember with Ratcliffe is his patriotism has limits. He thought Chelsea and Newcastle had been too costly in 2019, so he purchased Good. A yr later, he thought he was paying an excessive amount of revenue tax within the UK, so he moved his tax residence to Monaco, saving billions. He additionally thought constructing the Grenadier could be too costly in Wales, so he opted for a French manufacturing unit.
Ought to this shock us, although? He’s hardly the primary rich Brit to maneuver to someplace with a much less onerous tax regime, and he was beforehand one among HM Income and Customs’ largest particular person benefactors. Ineos owns 194 websites in 26 nations, using 26,000 individuals. It has a turnover of just about £50 billion and made nearly £1.7 billion in revenue final yr. It didn’t obtain that by placing passports forward of pennies. His patriotism is pragmatic.
However is he punctual?
When requested by the BBC why his bid for Chelsea got here in so late, he admitted it was late and accepted, “that’s our fault”.
However he then defined, “it’s a giant determination to purchase a nationwide asset of the significance of a membership like Chelsea… a giant accountability and a giant dedication, each by way of money and time, as a result of we aren’t there for 5 years or for 10 years, we’re there for the long run”.
As The Athletic has reported, Ratcliffe and his workforce at Ineos had been watching the takeover course of from the sidelines with rising curiosity. It has taken them longer than the American sports activities entrepreneurs who jumped on the probability to purchase Chelsea as quickly as Roman Abramovich’s circumstances modified, however Ineos has now determined £2.5 billion is a good value for membership soccer’s reigning European and world champions.
Why now? Nicely, Ratcliffe has made his fortune out of recognizing worth available in the market. Ineos is principally a conglomerate of companies he purchased between 1998 and 2008, that are nonetheless run in a comparatively free, federal type. On this regard, he’s precisely the identical as Todd Boehly, the investor main the popular bid that’s nonetheless the almost definitely winner of the Chelsea takeover contest.
Boehly, Ratcliffe, Josh Harris, Steve Pagliuca and all the opposite enterprise brains who bid for Chelsea see the Premier League’s recognition, the potential to monetise that international fanbase in new methods and the likelihood to cement the membership’s place amongst soccer’s elite, with new sponsors and income streams and an even bigger stadium. And the truth that a Russian oligarch has carried out a whole lot of the heavy lifting already by way of constructing the model and expertise pipeline is even higher.
So after all Ratcliffe isn’t giving up simply because Raine Group, the US financial institution Abramovich requested to run the sale course of, didn’t placed on a fireworks present to welcome his tardy and understandably light-on-detail bid. No, Raine has rightly caught to its timetable and is at present in detailed conversations with Boehly’s group about closing a deal this week.
However Ratcliffe is an attention-grabbing security web and he does have a a lot nearer relationship with the UK authorities — just because he has run one among Britain’s largest and most strategically-important corporations for greater than 20 years — than any of the opposite bidders.
That is related as a result of Chelsea are a frozen asset owned by a person who can’t profit from the proceeds of its sale for so long as he stays on the UK’s sanctions listing. This sale can solely proceed with authorities permission.
“The choice is partially Roman’s however equally, the federal government has to resolve that the proprietor is an efficient proprietor for the longer term, and the supporters ought to have a say on what kind of proprietor they wish to see sooner or later,” Ratcliffe advised the BBC.
That final remark is a veiled reference to the truth that two-thirds of the cash Boehly is keen to spend on shopping for and bankrolling Chelsea will come from Clearlake Capital, a California-based non-public fairness agency. Ratcliffe is aware of a factor or two about non-public fairness corporations, having labored for one earlier than deciding to truly assemble and run his personal enterprise.
“It’s a easy enterprise: You persuade a pension fund or an insurance coverage firm to present you some cash to handle, you handle the cash with the intention of accelerating the worth, and should you improve the worth, you get share of the earnings,” he advised the BBC.
“Your focus is all the time on, ‘How do I make investments and make that cash develop?’ and it’s sometimes a five-year time horizon. In America, the large sports activities golf equipment received’t enable these individuals to come back in and purchase the golf equipment. So you’ll be able to’t purchase an NFL membership, however within the UK you’ll be able to.”
That final level is partly true, as American soccer’s NFL has strict guidelines on the dimensions of possession syndicates and the way massive a stake in one among its 32 golf equipment could be owned by a fund. Basketball’s NBA has lately relaxed its guidelines on funding from funds however wouldn’t allow a takeover below the identical phrases because the Boehly/Clearlake proposal for Chelsea.
Does this imply it’s mistaken for Chelsea? Not essentially.
English soccer has lengthy taken a laissez-faire method to inward funding and Clearlake won’t be the primary US fund to personal a giant stake in a membership. Ipswich City, now in League One, are successfully owned by a pension fund from Arizona, whereas Redbird Capital purchased into the Fenway Sports activities Group syndicate of American billionaires who personal Liverpool final yr.
In order that horse has bolted.
Nonetheless, it nonetheless a horse that expects a return on funding.
“No, we’re not considering being profitable out of Chelsea,” Ratcliffe advised the BBC. “Can we run that membership actually, very well and switch it into one of many most interesting golf equipment in Europe? That’s our ambition with Chelsea. We make a lot of cash in chemical compounds, we don’t must earn money out of (Chelsea). We don’t consider it as a monetary asset.”
However keep in mind, he doesn’t throw good cash after dangerous, both.
He additionally already owns two soccer groups: Lausanne-Sport, the membership he purchased in 2017 when Ineos was nonetheless based mostly in Switzerland; and Good, his different “native” membership within the south of France, 13 miles west of Monaco.
These golf equipment are run by Jim’s youthful brother Bob Ratcliffe, who’s Ineos’ head of soccer.
Lausanne obtained relegated of their first season below Ineos management however got here again up as champions a yr later. Sadly, they’re heading down once more this season however they do have a brand new stadium now.
Good have been far more profitable. They’re at present fifth in Ligue 1, three factors off third, with two dwelling video games to come back amongst their three remaining league fixtures. Additionally they have a French Cup last to stay up for on Saturday in opposition to Nantes — the prospect to win silverware for the primary time since 1997.
However that might symbolize an issue, as UEFA doesn’t let golf equipment with the identical proprietor compete in the identical competitors.
Bob Ratcliffe has beforehand talked about Good being a “three-to-five-year undertaking” and the “precedence” for Ineos’ soccer arm. He additionally beforehand mentioned it was tough to rationalise the price of golf equipment within the Premier League, so issues have clearly modified.
His brother, nonetheless, prompt to the BBC that they might be searching for a technique to maintain Good and Chelsea, assuming they will get the latter deal over the road. We will see.
Or, extra probably, we received’t, as a result of Boehly’s group ought to full its buy of Chelsea very quickly, the UK authorities will work out a manner for the membership to settle their £1.6 billion debt to Abramovich with out breaking any sanctions and the proceeds of the sale will both go to victims of the conflict in Ukraine — as promised by Abramovich — or sit in a checking account he can’t contact till Russia regains its senses.
And all of this could occur in time for Chelsea to start out subsequent season, in August, in cheap form.
In fact, which may not occur, however the probabilities of it not taking place have been there from the start and they didn’t scare off Boehly or the opposite American-led teams that took half in Raine’s course of, or Ratcliffe for that matter.
So, let’s assume that Sir Jim’s timing was off on this event.
What subsequent, now he has determined a £4.25 billion funding in a Premier League soccer membership isn’t so irrational?
“Nicely, I feel we do one factor at a time (however) by no means say by no means,” Ratcliffe advised the BBC.
The Golden Objective story talked about at first of this piece got here from a kind of ‘Ask the boss’ interviews.
A member of employees requested him if Ineos would purchase Hull Metropolis. Ratcliffe laughed, saying the Yorkshire membership had been “not excessive on our listing” however then talked in regards to the job he did at Boothferry Park, Hull’s previous floor, after his household moved to England’s east coast from Oldham on the outskirts of Manchester. He spoke fondly in regards to the reward being a free seat within the membership’s finest stand.
However no person significantly thinks Ratcliffe can purchase Hull. The Championship membership have simply been purchased, anyway.
No, there may be one other British heritage model, which is at present trying rather a lot like a distressed asset, which may not have “For Sale” indicators outdoors however are partially listed on the New York Inventory Trade, so are due to this fact all the time on the market.
And if Ratcliffe had been to purchase Manchester United, there could be no want for any of that half-and-half-scarf nonsense about “break up allegiances”.
Go on, Sir Jim.
There’s completely no manner the Glazers are usually not taking your name should you’re providing them £4.25 billion and, in contrast to Chelsea, United are already on a par with Barcelona, Bayern and Actual Madrid in terms of international standing.
(Prime picture: Steven Paston/PA Pictures by way of Getty Pictures)