He is 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 is the union-busting proprietor of an organization that turns fossil fuels into plastics, employs hundreds, champions manufacturing and believes capitalism can resolve the planet’s largest environmental issues.
He is a tax exile who moved his firm’s headquarters again to the UK from Switzerland and saved Scotland’s largest refinery open, however then rowed again on a bid to construct the “spiritual successor” to the Land Rover Defender in Wales, selecting to do it in continental Europe as a substitute.
He backed Brexit, albeit a mushy one, however thinks the UK authorities’s stance on fracking is “pathetic”.
He is 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 is a lifelong Manchester United fan who offered Golden Goal tickets as an adolescent at Hull City, thought of shopping for Chelsea or Newcastle United (amongst different Premier League golf equipment) a couple of years in the past however purchased Nice of the French high flight as a substitute, and is now attempting to purchase Chelsea once more.
Ladies and gents, meet Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a chap who sounds as difficult because the polymers he sells however who named his Defender-inspired 4×4 after a pub and who desires that car to be one thing “you can hose down, inside and outside”.
A billionaire of the folks, then, however which individuals?
But none of you actually desires 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 truly heard of, like sports activities groups.
You need to know if he might 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 repute for valuing their privateness, the 69-year-old has been remarkably prepared 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, essentially the most profitable sailor in Olympic historical past.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, proper, with 15-time Olympic and world champion sailor Sir Ben Ainslie in 2018 (Photo: Lloyd Images/Getty Images)
This shy, shy man was at it once more on Wednesday, talking to the BBC in Madrid. He was within the Spanish capital to look at Real Madrid vs Manchester City within the second leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Asked why he needed to purchase Chelsea, he stated he has made no secret of being fascinated with shopping for a Premier League membership, he has a home in Chelsea, his firm HQ is up the street in Knightsbridge and he has been a daily at Stamford Bridge for years. He then stated soccer is the world’s hottest sport, the Premier League is the world’s largest league and Chelsea are the most effective golf equipment in that league.
He admitted to having a “split 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 are usually not on the market. We will come again to that.
On his imaginative and prescient for Chelsea, Ratcliffe opened up.
“I’ve always had this view that London and the UK are very much in the centre of the world of football — it’s where most of the money in football is and, of course, we’ve been very successful as a country in the biggest competitions recently,” he stated.
“We have six nice golf equipment — three within the north, three in London — however, in case you take a look at London, it’s by no means had a staff of the stature of Bayern Munich, Real 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 believe Chelsea could be an awesome candidate to be that membership in London, could be to be that membership that would maintain its personal all the time.
“In other words, a club that would have the same stature as the city of London. That’s how we would measure ourselves if we were successful in buying Chelsea.”
Flag-waving nonsense? A cynical enchantment to a populist authorities determined for British success tales?
Maybe, 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 fully financed by American cash, is British?
And Ratcliffe, at the least, has a monitor report of pricy patriotic ventures.
That drink with Ainslie, Britain’s most well-known sailor, became 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 staff known as Ineos Britannia.
He additionally purchased Manchester-based biking outfit Team Sky in 2019, rebranded them Team 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 staff have continued to win races, too.
And final yr, he purchased a 3rd of UK-based Formula 1 staff 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 also needs to point out that Ratcliffe’s first funding exterior the extra business-to-business world of petrochemicals was Belstaff, the clothes label based in Stoke in 1924. Famous for its motorcycle jackets, it’s an inherently British model primarily based on that concept of aristocratic sportiness but it surely had “fallen” into abroad possession till Ratcliffe rescued it in 2017.
Lewis Hamilton, left, celebrates with Ratcliffe after successful the 2021 Barcelona Grand Prix (Photo: Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula 1 by way of Getty Images)
But the factor it’s essential to always remember with Ratcliffe is his patriotism has limits. He thought Chelsea and Newcastle have been too costly in 2019, so he purchased Nice. A yr later, he thought he was paying an excessive amount of earnings 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 facility.
Should this shock us, although? He is hardly the primary rich Brit to maneuver to someplace with a much less onerous tax regime, and he was beforehand certainly one of HM Revenue and Customs’ largest particular person benefactors. Ineos owns 194 websites in 26 nations, using 26,000 folks. It has a turnover of virtually £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.
But 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”.
But he then defined, “it’s a big decision to buy a national asset of the importance of a club like Chelsea… a big responsibility and a big commitment, both in terms of time and money, because we aren’t there for five years or for 10 years, we’re there for the long term”.
As The Athletic has reported, Ratcliffe and his staff at Ineos have 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 worth for membership soccer’s reigning European and world champions.
Why now? Well, Ratcliffe has made his fortune out of recognizing worth out there. Ineos is principally a conglomerate of companies he purchased between 1998 and 2008, that are nonetheless run in a comparatively unfastened, federal fashion. In this regard, he’s precisely the identical as Todd Boehly, the investor main the popular bid that’s nonetheless the most probably 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 reputation, the potential to monetise that world 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 accomplished plenty of the heavy lifting already when it comes to constructing the model and expertise pipeline is even higher.
So after all Ratcliffe shouldn’t be 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 presently in detailed conversations with Boehly’s group about closing a deal this week.
But Ratcliffe is an attention-grabbing security internet and he does have a a lot nearer relationship with the UK authorities — just because he has run certainly one of Britain’s largest and most strategically-important corporations for greater than 20 years — than any of the opposite bidders.
This is related as a result of Chelsea are a frozen asset owned by a person who can not profit from the proceeds of its sale for so long as he stays on the UK’s sanctions record. This sale can solely proceed with authorities permission.
“The decision is partially Roman’s but equally, the government has to decide that the owner is a good owner for the future, and the supporters should have a say on what sort of owner they want to see in the future,” Ratcliffe instructed the BBC.
That final remark is a veiled reference to the truth that two-thirds of the cash Boehly is prepared 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 companies, having labored for one earlier than deciding to really assemble and run his personal enterprise.
“It’s a simple business: You persuade a pension fund or an insurance company to give you some money to manage, you manage the money with the intention of increasing the value, and if you increase the value, you get share of the profits,” he instructed the BBC.
“Your focus is always on, ‘How do I invest and make that money grow?’ and it’s typically a five-year time horizon. In America, the big sports clubs won’t allow those people to come in and buy the clubs. So you can’t buy an NFL club, but in the UK you can.”
That final level is partly true, as American soccer’s NFL has strict guidelines on the scale of possession syndicates and the way large a stake in certainly one of its 32 golf equipment might be owned by a fund. Basketball’s NBA has just lately relaxed its guidelines on funding from funds however wouldn’t allow a takeover beneath the identical phrases because the Boehly/Clearlake proposal for Chelsea.
Does this imply it’s improper for Chelsea? Not essentially.
English soccer has lengthy taken a laissez-faire strategy to inward funding and Clearlake is not going to be the primary US fund to personal an enormous stake in a membership. Ipswich Town, now in League One, are successfully owned by a pension fund from Arizona, whereas Redbird Capital purchased into the Fenway Sports Group syndicate of American billionaires who personal Liverpool final yr.
So that horse has bolted.
However, it nonetheless a horse that expects a return on funding.
“No, we’re not interested in making money out of Chelsea,” Ratcliffe instructed the BBC. “Can we run that club really, really well and turn it into one of the finest clubs in Europe? That’s our ambition with Chelsea. We make lots of money in chemicals, we don’t need to make money out of (Chelsea). We don’t think of it as a financial asset.”
But bear in mind, he doesn’t throw good cash after unhealthy, both.
Ratcliffe at a match between Nice and Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 (Photo: Valery Hache/AFP by way of Getty Images)
He additionally already owns two soccer groups: Lausanne-Sport, the membership he purchased in 2017 when Ineos was nonetheless primarily based in Switzerland; and Nice, his different “local” 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 acquired relegated of their first season beneath Ineos management however got here again up as champions a yr later. Unfortunately, they’re heading down once more this season however they do have a brand new stadium now.
Nice have been way more profitable. They are presently fifth in Ligue 1, three factors off third, with two dwelling video games to come back amongst their three remaining league fixtures. They even have a French Cup closing to look ahead to on Saturday in opposition to Nantes — the possibility to win silverware for the primary time since 1997.
But that would 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 Nice being a “three-to-five-year project” and the “priority” for Ineos’ soccer arm. He additionally beforehand stated it was tough to rationalise the price of golf equipment within the Premier League, so issues have clearly modified.
His brother, nonetheless, recommended to the BBC that they’d be in search of a method to preserve Nice and Chelsea, assuming they will get the latter deal over the road. We shall see.
Or, extra possible, 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 means 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 not contact till Russia regains its senses.
And all of this could occur in time for Chelsea to begin subsequent season, in August, in affordable form.
Of course, that may not occur, however the possibilities of it not occurring 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 shouldn’t be so irrational?
“Well, I think we do one thing at a time (but) never say never,” Ratcliffe instructed the BBC.
The Golden Goal story talked about at the beginning of this piece got here from a kind of ‘Ask the boss’ interviews.
A member of workers requested him if Ineos would purchase Hull City. Ratcliffe laughed, saying the Yorkshire membership have been “not high on our list” 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 greatest stand.
But no person severely thinks Ratcliffe should purchase Hull. The Championship membership have simply been purchased, anyway.
No, there may be one other British heritage model, which is presently trying lots like a distressed asset, that may not have “For Sale” indicators exterior however are partially listed on the New York Stock Exchange, so are due to this fact all the time on the market.
And if Ratcliffe have been to purchase Manchester United, there could be no want for any of that half-and-half-scarf nonsense about “split allegiances”.
Go on, Sir Jim.
There is totally no means the Glazers are usually not taking your name in case you’re providing them £4.25 billion and, in contrast to Chelsea, United are already on a par with Barcelona, Bayern and Real Madrid relating to world standing.
(Top photograph: Steven Paston/PA Images by way of Getty Images)