Welcome to Manchester United’s Sir Jim Ratcliffe at the Thunderdome. Hopefully they bring a helmet.
Ratcliffe and his INEOS group are set to buy a 25 per cent stake as one of the longest strategic reviews in football history (including “new investment into a club, sale or other company transactions”) comes to a close. United for a fee believed to be in the £1.25billion ($1.55bn) range. Ratcliffe – one of the wealthiest men in Britain and thought to have a net worth north of £30bn – has a history of buying items that have lost their charm before turning them into something new.
In the year In 2006, it bought the refining and petrochemical arm of British Petroleum, called Innoven. In doing so, INEOS has acquired refineries and plants in Scotland, Canada and several countries in continental Europe. In the year In 2019, INEOS took over sponsorship of the British cycling team formerly known as Team Sky. People with a history of success will stick to trusted methods when looking for more successes, and United fans will hope that Ratcliffe and INEOS can save their club as another “fix”.
Ratcliffe has accumulated many titles and awards during his decades in the business world, and is now perhaps the most famous minority investor in sports.
The INEOS Group’s investment will mean that it will have significant control over United’s football operations, with the 71-year-old becoming the embodiment of hopes and dreams for hundreds of millions of fans. United’s latest estimates say they have 1.1 billion “followers” worldwide, and while there is no such thing as an “average Manchester United fan”, if there is one common ambition it is this vast and vast population of the planet’s 8 billion people. Share, they want United to be the best football team they can be again.
That’s the moving target for Ratcliffe and INEOS in the coming years, when they are more rivals on the pitch and in business than ever before on how to restore United to their former glory. During this time, the Glazer family became the majority owner of the club and signed several resolutions. People look to an incoming minority ownership group to provide clarity and direction to a company that has lacked those qualities for years.
Believing in United’s uniqueness, unwilling to maintain the standards that made them special, has seen the club enter an unprecedented slide in the decade since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in the summer of 2013. First-hand and first-hand experience of the venue say United’s history, commercial clout and sheer scale mean it’s a football club independent of the conventional wisdom and practices of the game. But this is Manchester United, it’s a proposed suspension now, and there is a degree of truth to such thoughts.
Whether something, or someone successful elsewhere, will have the same effect on the behemoth that is United is hard to tell.
Glazer’s 18 years of ownership have seen budgets inflated and organizational structures become increasingly lean. Talented people who arrive at the club are overwhelmed by the usual infrastructure. If they prove to be successful in something, they will be asked to take on more tasks by stretching themselves beyond their limits.
In taking over the football duties, Ratcliffe’s team will be responsible for the things that matter most to United fans in the week-in and week-out enjoyment at the club. It has been 10 years since one former manager, Ferguson’s immediate successor, David Moyes, bemoaned his team’s failure to execute the fundamentals, but by doing the fundamentals better than anyone else, minority owners will earn their admiration and respect. Fans who know and track their activities.
David Moyes says #mufc need to improve in a number of areas: passing, creating chances and defending.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 9, 2013
Ratcliffe’s investment will take at least another six weeks to be approved once it is officially announced, but we look at what INEOS could do to influence fans and analysts ahead of the January transfer window. Around £1.25billion has been spent on getting things moving and it could take several hundred million more, and many changes to the club’s institutional apparatus, to build a real sense of revitalisation.
Disagreements often arise when reality does not match expectations, and with this underinvestment comes more opportunity for conflict with fans and the rest of the club’s ownership. Ratcliffe’s team must first outline a credible set of expectations for United’s players and then work to make them a reality.
Good luck Sir Jim.
You’re buying 25 percent of a machine that embodies the collective sporting hopes and dreams of a billion people, all waiting for a year to find a savior. They have been waiting for you.
There is no pressure.
(Top photo: Getty Images)