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Men's Soccer

Manchester United announces deal to sell up to 25 percent of EPL club to UK billionaire Jim Ratcliffe

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe's investment in Manchester United comes after moves elsewhere in European soccer that could have seen him take control of one of United’s main Premier League rivals as recently as last year.Scott Heppell/Associated Press

MANCHESTER, England — After a decade without winning the Premier League, Manchester United announced Sunday that it had agreed to sell a minority stake in the storied club to Jim Ratcliffe in a deal that would also see the British billionaire and boyhood fan take control of its soccer operations.

The record 20-time league champions have not won the title since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, prompting increased anger toward the Glazer family, United’s American owners.

The announcement came more than a year after the club was put up for sale.

Ratcliffe, who owns petrochemicals giant INEOS and is one of Britain’s richest people, has secured a stake of “up to 25 percent” in United and will invest $300 million in its Old Trafford stadium.

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Ratcliffe will provide $200 million upon completion of the deal and a further $100 million by the end of 2024, United said. In total the deal will be worth around $1.6 billion, including the $300 million of funding.

The deal is subject to approval by the Premier League.

United is currently eighth in the Premier League and has already been eliminated from European competition. Under-fire manager Eric ten Hag watched his team lose 2-0 at West Ham on Saturday, United’s 13th defeat in 26 games in all competitions this season.

Ratcliffe, who was born in Failsworth, Greater Manchester, had originally bid to buy the entire majority share of around 69 percent held by the Glazers.

“As a local boy and a lifelong supporter of the club, I am very pleased that we have been able to agree a deal with the Manchester United Board that delegates us management responsibility of the football operations of the club,” Ratcliffe said.

“Whilst the commercial success of the club has ensured there have always been available funds to win trophies at the highest level, this potential has not been fully unlocked in recent times. We will bring the global knowledge, expertise and talent from the wider INEOS Sport group to help drive further improvement at the club, while also providing funds intended to enable future investment into Old Trafford.”

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The transaction will be funded by Trawlers Limited — a company wholly owned by Ratcliffe — without any debt, United said. United fans have been critical of the leveraged nature of the Glazers’ buyout that loaded debt onto the club, as well as a perceived lack of investment and the dividends taken out by the owners.

Trawlers was named after a famous quote by former United great Eric Cantona. The Frenchman said at a news conference in 1995: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”

Avram Glazer and Joel Glazer, United executive co-chairmen and directors, said in the statement: “Sir Jim and INEOS bring a wealth of commercial experience as well as significant financial commitment into the club. And, through INEOS Sport, Manchester United will have access to seasoned high-performance professionals, experienced in creating and leading elite teams from both inside and outside the game.

“Manchester United has talented people right across the club and our desire is to always improve at every level to help bring our great fans more success in the future.”

In November last year, the Glazers announced plans to seek new investment and instructed US merchant bank Raine to oversee the process, which included the potential of a full sale.

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Ratcliffe had been in competition with Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani to buy out the Glazers, who also own the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But after months of protracted negotiations Sheikh Jassim withdrew his bid in October to leave Ratcliffe in position to take a minority share in the club.

Sheikh Jassim always maintained he was interested in a complete takeover.

United said Ratcliffe had paid $33 per share.