Sir Jim Ratcliffe agrees deal to buy 25 per cent stake

Ratcliffe is funding his minority purchase through an investment company called “Trawlers Ltd”, which is incorporated on the Isle of Man, and involves no debt. The inspiration for the name derives from a famous quote by Eric Cantona, one of Ratcliffe’s favourite ever United players. At a press conference following an appeal hearing at Croydon Magistrates’ Court in 1995 in the wake of his infamous “kung fu” kick on Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons at Selhurst Park, Cantona uttered the memorable line: “When seagulls follow the trawler it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”.

As well as buying 25 per cent of the so-called B class shares which until now only the Glazers had owned and which carry ten times the voting rights of the Class A shares, Ratcliffe is also purchasing up to 25 per cent of A shares but has agreed to buy these at the same $33 per share price to minimise the risk of any legal action from other minority shareholders.  

After a board meeting was convened on Sunday morning to give the belated greenlight to an announcement, Patrick Stewart – who is serving as interim chief executive following Richard Arnold’s departure last month – addressed club staff on a video call from Old Trafford shortly before the news was publicly confirmed.

Stewart told staff that United were looking to determine how football operations will run over the next six weeks or so, until the Ineos deal is sanctioned by the Premier League, and indicated that some of those questions had already been answered internally.

Some staff, including United’s director of data science Dominic Jordan, pressed United on this issue. With the January transfer window due to open in a week, there is understood to be some concern internally about how and what decisions will be made in the immediate future with Ineos not yet formally in situ. 

The anticipated presence of Reece and Nevin on the plc board and Brailsford, who is in charge of an audit of United’s football operations and the former Juventus CEO Blanc on the football club board are regarded as significant developments. Reece is one of the co-founders of the petrochemical giant. Brailsford was the former performance director of British cycling, although Ratcliffe will be very much the real power.

Although Ineos will not be in place in time to materially influence the January window, changes are expected ahead of the summer, not least around recruitment. Ineos are known to admire Newcastle’s director of football Dan Ashworth and have been looking at a whole host of other figures for potential recruitment positions.

A well placed source told Telegraph Sport: “The Glazers have said to Sir Jim ‘You take over the football side’. Obviously there have been conversations with the full board about budgets and money and Financial Fair Play etc. But in the end the decisions around all the football stuff will be made by Jim and his team.

“The business side and money side and the football side are inextricably linked so it’s not to say that they [the Glazers] are complete bystanders. But Jim isn’t going to do a deal like this and then have his hands tied.”

Joel and Avram Glazer, the United co-chairmen, said: “We are delighted to have agreed this deal with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos. As part of the strategic review we announced in November 2022, we committed to look at a variety of alternatives to help enhance Manchester United, with a focus on delivering success for our men’s, women’s and academy teams.

“Sir Jim and Ineos bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the Club. And, through Ineos Sport, Manchester United will have access to seasoned high-performance professionals, experienced in creating and leading elite teams from both inside and outside the game.

“Manchester United has talented people right across the club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help bring our great fans more success in the future.”

Over the coming months, Ratcliffe has set aside another £237m to invest in Old Trafford, which has become a symbol of Glazer neglect at United.

The club confirmed Ineos will provide “a $300 million fund intended to enable future investment into the Club’s infrastructure at Old Trafford, comprising $200 million paid upon the closing of the transaction and a further $100 million by the end of 2024”.

However, sources indicated that Ratcliffe recognises this is just the start of the financing of work required on Old Trafford and United’s Carrington training base and that substantially more investment will be required in the future. Estimates of the cost of redeveloping Old Trafford or the creation of a new stadium on surrounding land are put at between £800m and £2bn.

MUST greeted the news of Ratcliffe’s impending arrival with caution amid concern about the continued presence of the Glazers at the club.

“During 18 years of debt, decay and mismanagement, Manchester United fans have loudly and consistently called for change at our club,” the fans’ group said in a statement.

“When the so-called Strategic Review was announced nearly a year ago, it finally appeared that the sale of the club was on the horizon, potentially bringing the new investment and new direction MUFC so clearly needs.

“Against that backdrop, fans have very mixed feelings today. We welcome the investment from a boyhood red, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his Ineos company, but many will wish his ownership stake was greater than the initially rumoured 25 per cent. We note the statements that he and his team will control sporting activities, yet puzzle how any organisation can put its very core business in the hands of a minority shareholder, and how that meaningfully works in practice.”

“It is now incumbent on the club’s owners and management to properly explain how this new structure will work, where the new investment will be directed and how it will benefit the team on the field. As the Supporters Trust, we expect to have discussions with the club management and the INEOS team in the near future to understand their plans, and to put to them the very many questions fans have today.

“Today might – just might – be a step forward for Manchester United after some very difficult years. But with the Glazers still in charge, people should understand that United fans will remain sceptical and wait for the proof in the pudding.”

Ratcliffe acquires 25 per cent in Man Utd, as it happened


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