British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos has officially entered the race to buy Manchester United.
Ineos said the company had “officially joined the process”.
Ratcliffe made an unsuccessful £4.25bn bid to buy Chelsea last year after owner Roman Abramovich put the London club up for sale.
Born the son of a carpenter in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, Ratcliffe has been a United fan since childhood and is one of the richest men in Great Britain.
He said he would try to buy the Old Trafford team after failing to buy Chelsea, but after meeting with brothers Joel and Avram Glazer, stated that they do not want to sell.
However, the Glazers have since had a change of heart and he has now joined the bidding process.
The Ineos group owns Nice in France and Swiss club Lausanne.
United has been owned by the Glazer family since 2005.
They are fourth in the Premier League after an improvement in form under manager Erik ten Hag, who took over this summer.
They beat local rivals Manchester City 2-1 on Saturday and are nine points behind leaders Arsenal.
American investment company Raine Group, who led Chelsea’s £4.25 billion sale in May, exclusively advised by United. A consortium led by Todd Boehly paid £2.5bn for a stake in the Stamford Bridge club, while it said it would provide £1.75bn to invest in the Premier League club.
There have been a number of protests against the Glazers’ ownership in recent years, including one in May 2021 which saw United’s home league game against Liverpool postponed.
Thousands of fans marched on Old Trafford in protest before the same game this season in August.
United were part of a failed European Super League project that quickly collapsed in April 2021. Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer later apologized for the turmoil he caused.
He later attended fan forums in the midst of fan unrest and promised to make the shares available to the club’s followers.
Since then, a United statement in November said the board would “consider all strategic alternatives, including new investment in the club, sale or other transactions involving the company”.
BBC Sport football reporter Simon Stone
By confirming his interest in buying Manchester United, long-time fan Ratcliffe has guaranteed himself plenty of attention over the next month.
The Raine Group, which is leading the sale process, has promised to narrow down the pool of bidders in February, with the goal of closing any deal in March, although these are not hard and fast deadlines.
BBC Sport understands that all options remain open, including the Glazer family remaining as owners but accepting some form of outside investment.
United sources downplayed CEO Richard Arnold and co-chairman Avia Glazer’s trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos this week.
However, their presence will certainly create opportunities to talk about the club or, at the very least, about financing the renovation of the stadium.
It will cost around £2 billion and renovating Old Trafford to the required level is unlikely to cost much less than building a brand new ground from scratch.
Obviously, that eye-watering cost, on top of what the Glazers want for the club, means that any buyer will have to shell out a lot more than the £4.25 billion that Boehly’s consortium bought for Chelsea last year.
And that means it will take either an individual or a group with very deep pockets.
The ‘exclusivity’ of owning one of the world’s biggest global sports brands will hopefully generate a healthy market and this is being pushed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Having previously reviewed the accounts at Chelsea and then left his actual offer until the bid deadline, Ratcliffe’s tactics raised a few eyebrows last year.
He left early this time. It will be fascinating to see how the next few weeks play out.