BRITAIN’S richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe – worth a staggering £15billion – is plotting to buy Manchester United.
The billionaire businessman has reportedly thrown his hat in the ring, as the Glazer family are believed to be open to selling a minority stake in the Premier League crisis club, which has a reported total value of £5billion.
Ratcliffe, a life-long Red Devils fans, would jump at the chance to invest in the Old Trafford side and take “full control”.
A spokesperson said: “If the club is for sale, Jim is definitely a potential buyer.
“If something like this was possible, we would be interested in talking with a view to long-term ownership.
“This is not about the money that has been spent or not spent.
“Jim is looking at what can be done now and, knowing how important the club is to the city, it feels like the time is right for a reset.”
Back in April, the 69-year-old put in an offer for Chelsea after speaking with former Blues chairman Bruce Buck, when sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich triggered a fire sale.
Ratcliffe is a petrochemicals tycoon who at his peak was worth around £21BILLION, and already owns French club Nice.
But in the past, the billionaire has revealed he has zero interest in taking over the Red Devils as a future.
He once told the Times: “They 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.”
Ratcliffe was born in Failsworth, Lancashire, a commuter town just outside of Manchester.
His father was a joiner and his mother worked in accounts, with the family living in a council house until the age of ten, before eventually moving to Hull, Yorkshire.
His father later ran a factory making lab furniture.
Ratcliffe previously admitted that despite having a Chelsea season ticket for many years, he is actually a Manchester United fan.
He said: “I am a season ticket holder at Chelsea, have been for years, although I’m a Manchester United fan really.
After attending Beverley Grammar School, Ratcliffe graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in chemical engineering.
He also attended the London Business School, doing management accounting and graduating in 1980.
Ratcliffe’s first job was with oil firm Esso, before moving to American private equity group Advent international in 1989.
He only became an entrepreneur at 40, as co-founder of INSPEC and then in 1998 forming Ineos in Hampshire, buying out his partners.
The company used high-yield debt to finance deals, buying unwanted operations from bigger firms such as ISI and BP.
In 2006, Ineos bought BP’s refining and petrochemical arm Innovene, giving the company refineries in five European countries and Canada.
Ineos quit the United Kingdom in 2010, moving their head office from Hampshire to Rolle, Switzerland.
The move is said to have saved Ratcliffe and his firm around £100million annually because of lesser tax.
We’d look at businesses that were unfashionable or unsexy… We’d run them a bit better, reduce the costs, make them busy, and over the cycle they are very profitable
Sir Jim Ratcliffe on how his company made their billions
He did return in 2015, however, putting the chemicals and energy branch of Ineos in Knightsbridge, London, saying he was “very cheerful” about being back in the UK and untroubled by Brexit. In fact, Ratcliffe had voted for Brexit.
However, he quit the UK in 2018, moving to tax haven Monaco.
The same year, the Sunday Times named Ratcliffe as Britain’s Richest Man, with a personal wealth of £21.05bn.
Ineos, which employs around 19,000 people across the globe, makes fuels and lubricants, food packaging and construction materials that are a huge part of everyday life.
It also supplies natural gas to homes and produces plastics, acids and polystyrene.
In 2018, Ineos had a turnover of £45bn and is valued at £35bn.
It is only in the last 12 months that he has become a more publicly known figure – his wealth rose by an astonishing £15bn in 2018.
He revealed to The Times how he made his money, saying: “We’d look at businesses that were unfashionable or unsexy, facilities owned by large corporations where you’d know they would be sloppy with the fixed costs.
“We’d run them a bit better, reduce the costs, make them busy, and over the cycle they are very profitable.”
Ratcliffe has been called secretive and reclusive and according to the Financial Times has been given some nefarious nicknames by rivals and staff.
They reported he has been called JR after the scheming oil tycoon from 1980s hit show Dallas, as well as Dr No – after the Bond villain/mad scientist.
Ratcliffe, who is a vocal supporter of fracking, was married to Amanda Townson in 1985, before divorcing in 1995 – the couple had two sons.
He also has a daughter from his second wife, Alicia, whom he married in the late 1990s.
Ratcliffe had properties in Chelsea and Hampshire before quitting the country for the French riviera.
His move to the tax haven, where he already had a property, will save him around £4BILLION in tax.
Ratcliffe was also made a Knight Bachelor in the 2018 Birthday Honours list for services to business and investment.
While he has owned two large super-yachts, the Hampshire, which he sold in 2011 to take order of the Hampshire II, which he still owns.
The Hampshire II cost £130million is 257ft 6in and can house 14 guests and 23 crew.
It features six large cabins, has a swimming pool on one of the decks, a helipad, Jacuzzi, sauna, cinema and beach club.
The helipad can even be transformed into a special sports area fit for tennis, badminton, basketball, baseball or football.
His other toys include FOUR private jets and a fleet of cars – although it’s not known which cars he has.
However, he is a known lover of Land Rover Defenders and has financed his own line of cars to rival his favourite 4×4.
The Ineos Projekt Grenadier starts at £49,000, and orders are already being taken.
Sir Jim has always been a huge fan of sport and physical activity.
As well as growing up a Manchester United fan, he has made expeditions to the North and South Poles and also spent three months on a motorbike trek across South Africa.
Ratcliffe is also said to have completed the London Marathon in 2007.
Before his interest in buying Man Utd, Ratcliffe and Ineos had already bought another football team: Swiss side FC Lausanne-Sport.
He completed the purchase of the team in November 2017, with the club sitting fifth in the Swiss Super League.
However, The Blue and Whites were RELEGATED in his first season at the helm, dropping down to the Challenge League last May.
The club are currently second in the league, eight points behind leaders Servette, with 11 games still to play.
Only one team is promoted in Switzerland, however.
Elsewhere, Ratcliffe has completed a move for Team Sky – and turned them into Team Ineos.
He said: “Cycling is a great endurance and tactical sport that is gaining ever more popularity around the world.
“Equally, cycling continues to mushroom for the general public as it is seen to be good for fitness and health, together with easing congestion and pollution in city environments.
“Ineos is delighted to take on the responsibility of running such a professional team.”
In 2018, Ratcliffe teamed with Olympic hero Sir Ben Ainslie to form Ineos Team UK, and they competed for the America’s Cup from 2021.
It is believed he spent more than £110million on the project.
Clearly, with money to burn, Man Utd fans will be getting excited at the prospect of Ratcliffe backing their club.