Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s proposed bid to acquire a 25 per cent stake in Manchester United has at last be confirmed by the club.
United issued a statement on December 24, 2024 to confirm that an agreement had been reached with the chairman and founder of INEOS. “The joint ambition is to create a world-class football operation building on the club’s many existing strengths, including the successful off-pitch performance that it continues to enjoy,” they said.
In November 2022, the Glazer family officially communicated they were looking at “commencing a process to explore strategic alternatives” for United. The club owners said this could mean a an injection of capital from investors, selling a minority stake, or a full takeover.
Thirteen months on, and the family have favoured the route of a partial sale of their controlling shares and the relinquishing of sporting control of the club to the British billionaire.
Ratcliffe is the founder of INEOS, one of the world’s largest chemical companies. The company is also involved in many different sporting enterprises, including French football side OGC Nice, who are challenging for the Ligue 1 title this season.
Ratcliffe and INEOS will now take overall charge of United’s sporting operations, including the men’s, women’s and academy teams. In late October, new reports, including in The Athletic, suggested his first move could be to remove current CEO Richard Arnold and bring in Jean-Claude Blanc. It has now been confirmed that Blanc will be joining the club; with Arnold having already stepped down, the Frenchman is expected to replace United’s interim CEO, Patrick Stewart.
Who is Jean-Claude Blanc?
Jean-Claude Blanc, a French businessman and sports executive, has experience in football extending to being involved in arguably France and Italy’s most prestigious clubs: Paris Saint-Germain, and Juventus.
Blanc was a board member at Juventus before becoming CEO and his notable achievement included securing funding for the development of their new arena. The Allianz Stadium was Italy’s first stadium construction since 1990 and became the first privately-owned facility among Italian football clubs.
He then headed to Paris where he spent 12 seasons and saw the club win over 50 trophies during their journey to becoming one of the most successful premium sports and lifestyle brands in the world under the ownership of Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).
In December 2022, Blanc left PSG to work for Sir Jim Ratcliffe. INEOS announced Blanc as their new chief executive officer of sport and Ratcliffe said: “I am delighted to welcome Jean-Claude as CEO of INEOS Sport with his many years of experience across different sports.
“We have high ambitions for all our sports teams with a particular ambition to raise our standards in football and Jean Claude will bring an entrepreneurial and innovative flair to all our teams.”
🚨🚨💣 BREAKING NEWS: Richard Arnold is expected to leave his role as Manchester United CEO if Sir Jim Ratcliffe succeeds in his bid for a minority stake! Jean-Claude Blanc is being considered to replace him! #MUFC [@lauriewhitwell] pic.twitter.com/0OGjKkDmI8
— mufcmpb (@mufcMPB) October 26, 2023
Blanc’s current responsibility includes overseeing the entire INEOS Sport portfolio, concerning football, Formula 1, sailing, cycling, rugby, and running.
He primarily works on developing INEOS’ commitments in the Mercedes F1 team, OGC Nice, FC Lausanne-Sport, Racing Club d’Abidjan, the INEOS Grenadiers cycling squad, and the organisation’s support for the British Challenge in the 37th America’s Cup, the All Blacks rugby union team, and the Eliud Kipchoge running squad.
One question that United fans will be asking is: will he be adding the Red Devils to that incredibly long list of responsibilities? Or will Blanc’s sole focus be on the Premier League giant, ignoring INEOS’ other sports entities?
For now, those details are to be determined, but a sporting project as large as United will need someone fully focused on the task.
Who is Sir Dave Brailsford?
Along with Blanc, Sir Dave Brailsford is expected to take one of the two new seats on the Man United board.
Brailsford, 59, is the INEOS director of sport. Formerly the performance director of British Cycling and the man in charge of the INEOS Grenadiers road-cycling team, the Englishman has played a key role in the running of Ligue 1 side Nice under the INEOS ownership.
He is expected to be one of the three central figures in terms of United’s new sporting operations, although his exact job title has not been confirmed.
Brailsford has helped turn Nice into Champions League contenders in France, and he is best known for his work in leading British Cycling to huge success in major competitions, including the Olympic Games.
There is controversy linked to his name, too. In 2018, he appeared before a parliamentary committee in Britain, where he was questioned in relation to an allegation that cycling star Bradley Wiggins could have been delivered a banned substance prior to a race in 2011. Brailsford maintained the bag in question contained flu medication, and the committee said it could not determine exactly what was in it.
Richard Freeman, the former chief medic at British Cycling and Team Sky — also run by Brailsford — was banned in August this year from all sport for four years for anti-doping offences. Brailsford has always denied wrongdoing and has not faced any such charges, while Freeman himself insisted he had acted alone.