British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s company Ineos officially joined the race to buy Manchester United on Tuesday.
United’s owners, the Glazer family, said they were open to hearing offers for the Premier League club in November and Ratcliffe is keen to make a deal.
Boyhood United fan Ratcliffe, who made an unsuccessful £4.25bn ($5.2bn) bid to buy Chelsea last year, has long been linked with the Old Trafford outfit.
“I can confirm that we have formally entered the process,” an Ineos spokesman told AFP.
After failing with his Chelsea takeover when Roman Abramovich sold the Blues to American tycoon Todd Boehly and his consortium, Ratcliffe is back on the hunt for a Premier League giant.
United have yet to comment on news of the 70-year-old’s interest in taking over US-based Glazers.
But, born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, Ratcliffe is one of Britain’s richest men and might be more palatable to United than the Glazers, who have experienced numerous fan protests during their troubled reign.
The Glazers, who completed a leveraged takeover of the club in 2005, have proven deeply unpopular with supporters due to the team’s declining on-field fortunes in recent years.
His purchase of United also saddled the club with huge debts and they have long been accused of taking more financially than they have invested in terms of transfer funds.
The Glazers further angered United fans by backing the failed European Super League project in April 2021, which would have led the club to join a breakaway competition.
A United statement in November said the board “will consider all strategic alternatives, including a new investment in the club, a sale or other transactions involving the company.”
United have not won the Premier League since 2013 and their last major trophy came six years ago.
After a dismal sixth-place finish in the Premier League last season, boss Erik ten Hag reinvigorated United and sits fourth in the table after beating arch-rivals Manchester City 2-1 on Saturday.
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Ineos wants to expand a sports portfolio that already includes ownership of French team Nice and Swiss team FC Lausanne-Sport, as well as the Ineos Grenadiers cycling team, formerly Team Sky.
Ratcliffe could face competition from investors from Saudi Arabia after the country’s sports minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, said in November that there “may” be interest in buying United and Liverpool, which are also in the pipeline. sale.
US investment firm Raine Group, which handled the Chelsea sale, is exclusively advising United, which is valued at around £5bn.
Ratcliffe’s entry into the bidding process came just hours after United legend Peter Schmeichel defended the club’s decision to set up a luxury hall at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Located near software companies, consultancies and global banks, the club has created a lounge on the main street of Davos, a luxurious Swiss ski resort teeming with billionaires and CEOs this week during the annual Forum.
“If you look at what we say about ourselves, we say we’re one of the biggest sports brands in the world, then I think you have to back that up by having a presence in places like this,” Schmeichel, who acts as an ambassador, told AFP.
Schmeichel, who won five Premier League and Champions League titles with United, said his personal preference would be for the fans to buy the club, but admitted this was an unlikely outcome.
“I know there are a lot of fans who want a change of ownership,” he said.
“To me…Would it make a difference to change ownership? I think the only difference would be if it was fan-owned, but I think that’s probably impossible. It’s too big.”