How Ineos could rebuild Manchester United – with controversial former cycling boss David Brailsford taking center stage

Inside, on the other hand, working life is incomparable; United’s wood-panelled office is a vision of tradition, while the petrochemical behemoth is all sharp edges, glass paneling and modern art.

Business operations are also in other galaxies. United have been saddled with heavy debts for over 17 years amid the steady decline, but Jim Ratcliffe – according to his brother – runs the business “lean”.

At Ineos’ futuristic Knightsbridge base last year, Bob Ratcliffe, Jim’s brother, presented how the company works.

“If you look at how my brother Andy (Currie) and John (Reece) run the business, the assets they bought were undervalued and they improved them operationally,” he said. “Then you put the pieces together and it becomes a successful company. It runs very lean as a company.”

A United takeover by Ratcliffe is still at a hypothetical stage. But if the situation gets serious, there’s a specific approach where Ineos would draw on the expertise of its other sports investments to stop the rot.

Bob Ratcliffe had spoken seven months before his brother Jim submitted his 11th-hour bid for Chelsea, let alone expressed his interest in United. However, using the example of their investment in Ligue 1 club Nice, he described how they drew on expertise but remained independent of their multiple investments spanning F1, cycling, rugby and sailing.

“The companies are all federal, so they’re self-governing, but they’re expected to compare,” explained Bob Ratcliffe. “This is how we see football”

Around this time last year, Ineos was planning to buy another club in Portugal, having postponed previous asking prices in England’s top flight. But with the controversial figure of Dave Brailsford now in charge as sporting director, the positioning has shifted back to more ambitious projects.

The market currently values ​​United at $2.2bn (€2.18bn), although the Glazers have put a much higher price on United and some estimate it will take £5bn (€5.91bn). is going to win the richest club – by revenue generation – English football.

Ratcliffe, a United fan and one of Britain’s richest men, has shown he has the guts for such a massive bill in his failed attempt to buy Chelsea.

Unlike the Glazers, who each pay themselves through shareholder dividends, Ratcliffe claims he’s in the sport for different reasons.

“We are making this investment as fans of the beautiful game – not as a means of making a profit,” Ineos had said in his failed rapprochement with Roman Abramovich. “We do that with our core businesses.”

If the United bid leads to talks, Brailsford – who is also rebuilding his reputation by being involved in the high-performance review of English cricket – would certainly play a central role on the planning side.

The former coach, who was named Sports Personality Coach of the Year by the BBC for leading the British Olympic cycling team to 12 medals in 2012 and helping Bradley Wiggins win a Tour de France, first declared in 2014 that he’s interested in helping football tackle some of his “inner chimp” complexes.

But those hopes have been a long way off lately, with MPs asking if he should take action after a 2018 select committee report claimed British Cycling had unethically used medical exemptions to administer performance-enhancing drugs.

Former British cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman’s shame at having received testosterone “knowing or believing” it was for a rider also raised serious questions about Brailsford’s professed “win clean” philosophy.

Brailsford declined to act on the excitement, although Team Ineos (née Sky) released a statement that said: “The team does not believe any athlete has ever used or attempted to use Testogel or any other performance-enhancing substance use”.

Brailsford’s appointment by Ratcliffe in December coincided with his re-emergence as a key influence in the sport. One of his first assignments was heading up an audit in Nice and he now appears to be in a prominent hands-on role, having posed for photos with Aaron Ramsey when he signed for the French club.

At United, Brailsford can claim to know a lot more about football than some of the past and present leaders in the Glazer era.

Instead, Ratcliffe’s biggest challenge would be trying to start talks with the current owners, who seem more enthusiastic about the prospect of releasing funds through a minority stake sale to a US private equity firm.

If anyone in Britain has the resources to turn the Glazers’ heads in the coming weeks, it’s Ratcliffe. Bloomberg’s 2022 Billionaires Index conservatively lists his personal wealth at £7.1bn (€8.4bn), while the Ineos Group is worth well over £60bn (€71bn).

However, Bob Ratcliffe claims that the company, which entered the world of football five years ago with the purchase of FC Lausanne in Switzerland, is not in the market to pay above the odds.

“Some of our early purchases in Lausanne made us seem a bit naïve, but then we learn business very quickly and that’s what we did,” says the company’s football boss.

“People think it’s a checkbook game. We don’t want that, so we have to fight pretty hard for value and research objectively. Above all, we want to invest in increasing value.” How Ineos could rebuild Manchester United – with controversial former cycling boss David Brailsford taking center stage


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