Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s deal to become a minority shareholder in Manchester United is expected to be agreed during this month’s international break, possibly as early as next week.
It is expected Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group will pay around £1.25bn to buy 25%.
United’s owners the Glazer family announced on 22 November 2022 they were considering selling the club.
Ineos and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani both made offers, tabling bids of around £5bn.
However, neither bidder was willing to reach the Glazer family’s valuation, with co-chairs Joel and Avram Glazer both known to be reluctant sellers.
Sheikh Jassim withdrew from the process last month, claiming his final bid, thought to be double United’s $3.2bn (£2.64bn) stock market valuation, had not met the Glazers’ demands.
Ratcliffe had already amended his initial plan to buy the Glazers’ 69% shareholding and reduced it to a ‘majority’ stake.
However, it was only when he reduced it again, to an anticipated 25%, that the potential for an agreement increased.
It is not entirely clear what the structure of the deal will be, nor if there will be specific dates that would allow Ratcliffe to increase his shareholding. It is thought around £245m in additional funds will be made available by Ratcliffe for infrastructure works related to the stadium.
It has been reported Ratcliffe wants to assume control of the football operations side of the club.
Sources with a close working knowledge of Ratcliffe have told BBC Sport it was “impossible to imagine” he would agree to being a silent partner.
Many, both at United and in close proximity, believe the club will benefit from “a new pair of eyes” looking at how it is run.
It is expected Sir Dave Brailsford, the former performance director at British Cycling, will be heavily involved.
The precise date for confirmation of the deal is still to be formalised, although BBC Sport has been told it will not be on Monday given that is the date of Sir Bobby Charlton’s funeral.
Fans opposed to the Glazers’ continued involvement at United, potentially retaining a majority stake, intend to renew their protests at Saturday’s Premier League game against Luton at Old Trafford.
United are struggling on the pitch this season, having lost nine of their 17 games, sitting bottom of their Champions League group and eighth in the Premier League.
The Glazer family, who bought United for £790m in 2005, said in November 2022 they were to “explore strategic alternatives” for the club.
Petrochemicals firm Ineos already owns French Ligue 1 club Nice and Swiss club Lausanne.
Its sporting portfolio also includes high-profile sailing team Ineos Britannia – led by Sir Ben Ainslie – which is aiming to win the 2024 America’s Cup for Great Britain.
Ineos also has a five-year partnership with Formula 1 team Mercedes, owning a third of the team – and took over the British-based Team Sky in cycling in 2019.
Ratcliffe, who says he is a lifelong United fan, tried and failed to buy Chelsea last year.
Key questions remain
While this development has been expected and the date speculated for some time, key elements will not be known until an official announcement is made.
Chief amongst these is what role Ratcliffe will play, how the interaction will work with the Glazer family and what process is in place for the Ineos chief to increase his stake.
Ratcliffe’s business history is not that of a man who gives way, quite the reverse in fact. Brailsford has extensive knowledge of an elite sporting environment. But the Glazers have run the club in a manner that suits them. They don’t make decisions on a whim and quite often, the process is slow.
So, for instance, what happens in January with Jadon Sancho? A £74m asset who is currently exiled from the first-team squad with no obvious end to his dispute with manager Erik ten Hag in sight. Given his wages, even a loan move in January will involve some kind of financial input from Old Trafford. Who decides what the extent of that should be?
Will Ratcliffe confirm where his financial input is coming from – and will he spend more on the stadium? £245m is not enough for all the changes that need to be made.