Sir Jim Ratcliffe has vowed to make Manchester United the “number one club in the world again” after confirming Ineos has launched a takeover bid.
Ratcliffe’s Ineos company will compete with wealthy Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, to acquire the Old Trafford club from the Glazer family.
Ratcliffe, 70, is one of the UK’s wealthiest people with an estimated net worth of £12.5billion following the success of his global chemical company.
“We can confirm that Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Ineos have submitted a bid for majority ownership of Manchester United Football Club,” a statement, released to the PA news agency, read.
“We would see our role as the long-term custodians of Manchester United on behalf of the fans and the wider community.
“We are ambitious and highly competitive and would want to invest in Manchester United to make them the number one club in the world once again.
“We also recognise that football governance in this country is at a crossroads. We would want to help lead this next chapter, deepening the culture of English football by making the club a beacon for a modern, progressive, fan-centred approach to ownership.
“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 and clearly focusing on winning the Champions League.”
Ratcliffe – who also owns cycling team Ineos Grenadiers, Ligue 1 side Nice, Swiss club Lausanne-Sport and is a one-third shareholder of the Mercedes Formula One team – has previously said he is a lifelong United fan.
He last year launched an unsuccessful bid to buy Chelsea.
Like Ratcliffe, Al Thani, chairman of Qatari bank QIB, claims to be a boyhood United supporter.
He has indicated his offer would leave the Old Trafford club debt-free, in contrast to the Glazer family’s controversial leveraged buy-out in 2003.
A statement released on Friday night read: “Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani today confirmed his submission of a bid for 100 per cent of Manchester United Football Club.
“The bid plans to return the club to its former glories both on and off the pitch, and – above all – will seek to place the fans at the heart of Manchester United Football Club once more.
“The bid will be completely debt free via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation, which will look to invest in the football teams, the training centre, the stadium and wider infrastructure, the fan experience and the communities the club supports.
“The vision of the bid is for Manchester United Football Club to be renowned for footballing excellence, and regarded as the greatest football club in the world.”
The PA news agency understands the Raine Group – brought in to assist United in assessing offers – wants the buyout process to move at speed, with the first quarter of the year recognised as a key time. United could even be under new ownership by the end of the current season.
But prior to the Qatari announcement – and the possibility of a potential rival bid from Saudi Arabia – Manchester United’s LGBTQ+ supporters’ group the Rainbow Devils raised “deep concern” regarding interest from nations where same-sex relationships are criminalised.
“Rainbow Devils believe any bidder seeking to buy Manchester United must commit to making football a sport for everyone, including LGBTQ+ supporters, players and staff,” said the group on Twitter.
“We therefore have deep concern over some of the bids that are being made. We are watching the current process closely with this in mind.”
The Glazer family effectively made United open for offers in November, raising hopes among supporters that their controversial reign was coming to a close.
United, who are third in the Premier League, five points adrift of leaders’ Manchester City, return to action on Sunday when they face Leicester at Old Trafford.