London: British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe (pix) could finalise a deal to become a minority shareholder at Manchester United during this month’s international break, according to reports on Friday.
Ratcliffe’s INEOS Group is expected to pay about £1.25 billion ($1.5 billion) for a 25 percent stake in the Old Trafford club, while also acquiring significant control over footballing operations.
There is no a firm timetable for the deal to be finalised, but the BBC said it could come as early as next week.
The Glazer family announced last November that they were considering “strategic alternatives” to help the club grow, which included consideration of a sale.
Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani and Ratcliffe made offers in the region of £5 billion for a complete takeover, but that fell short of the Glazer family’s valuation.
Sheikh Jassim withdrew from the process last month, while Ratcliffe continued to pursue a minority shareholding.
The 71-year-old, who tried to buy Chelsea last year, grew up in the Manchester region and describes himself as a lifelong fan of United.
The deal is expected to lead to a major shake-up of United’s football operations. Dave Brailsford, the former performance director of British Cycling, is expected to have significant influence in his role as INEOS’s director of sport.
The group already owns French Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss club Lausanne-Sport, as well as the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team.
It also has a stake in Formula One team Mercedes, whose team principal Toto Wolff last week said he would also consider investing in United once Ratcliffe’s deal is completed.
Ongoing speculation and uncertainty over the club’s ownership has come at a time when United are struggling on the pitch.
Wednesday’s 4-3 defeat to Copenhagen left Erik ten Hag’s side bottom of their Champions League group, while they are eighth in the Premier League, having lost nine of 17 games in all competitions. -AFP