Jim Ratcliffe: Daredevil billionaire with United in his sights

Lifelong Manchester United fan Jim Ratcliffe says he does not “take risks unnecessarily” and the hard-headed businessman appears to have judged buying the club falls outside that category.

The 70-year-old self-made English billionaire’s idea of what is an unnecessary risk may differ to that of most other people.

For he has skied to the North and South Poles, sailed through the Northwest Passage and climbed the Matterhorn.

“I don’t take risks unnecessarily,” he told Saturday’s edition of The Times on the day his INEOS company officially submitted a bid for majority ownership of United.

“To give you an example, I won’t and would never jump out of an aeroplane, because you either live or die depending upon how well someone’s packed your parachute.

“I’m quite careful, but you’re only here once so you get more out of life if you challenge yourself a bit more.”

Ratcliffe has an estimated net worth of £12.5 billion ($15 billion) having along with two long-standing partners — “all northern grammar school boys” — built INEOS into a formidable global petrochemical firm.

His fortune was estimated in 2018 at £21 billion — a far cry from when the company was in serious trouble as a result of the global financial crisis in 2008.

He is not a newcomer to the football world as he owns French Ligue 1 side Nice — which he bought for a reported 110 million euros ($118 million) — and Swiss outfit FC Lausanne-Sport.

He has been unhappy with the manner in which Manchester United has been run under the deeply unpopular Glazer family.

Ratcliffe — born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester — was blunt in an interview with The Times in 2019 when outlining the reasons why he would not have bought United outright at that time, even if it was up for sale.

“(INEOS) never wants to be the dumb money in town, never. They (United) are in quite a big pickle as a business.

“They haven’t got the manager selection right, haven’t bought well. They have been the dumb money, which you see with players like Fred.

“United have spent an immense amount since (Sir Alex) Ferguson left (he retired in 2013 after guiding them to their last league title) and been poor, to put it mildly.

“Shockingly poor, to be honest.”

– ‘Highs and lows’ –

Ratcliffe is clearly keen for the fans to feel part of the club again.

“We want a Manchester United anchored in its proud history and roots in the north-west of England, putting the Manchester back into Manchester United,” INEOS said in their statement confirming they were in the race to buy the club.

Ratcliffe, whose father was a joiner while his mother worked in an accounts department, was an advocate for Brexit and stands by it.

He was annoyed by criticism when he decamped to Monaco, making it his primary residence. He still, however, retains properties in England.

“I didn’t move down there until I was well into retirement age,” he said.

“Going to the sun, I might live a bit longer in a warmer climate.”

Ratcliffe, whose other sporting interests include the elite cycling team INEOS Grenadiers, has other interests. One of them is bee-keeping.

He also bought his favourite watering hole, The Grenadier Pub, in London’s chic Belgravia neighbourhood.

That is a far cry from the bitter cold of the North and South Poles. He took his two sons, Sam and George, on both trips.

“It was one of the more miserable experiences of my life,” Ratcliffe said of the 2011 trip to the South Pole.

“There’s nothing uplifting about spending all day (on skis) pulling an 80-kilo sledge over ice waves.

“But there’s no feeling quite like getting to the South Pole after you’ve walked 200 kilometres.

“It’s the highs and lows of life, isn’t it? The highs are better if you’ve experienced a few lows beforehand. You can’t just have highs all the time.”




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