Jim Ratcliffe, owner of petrochemical company Ineos, is close to completing his takeover of French top-flight soccer club OGC Nice for a reported €100 million (US$112 million), according to multiple reports.
Ratcliffe first made an offer for the Ligue 1 side back in February, only for it to be publically rejected by current owner Chien Lee. But after making a revised bid in April, talks have apparently progressed with a deal now close to completion.
The 66-year-old already owns Swiss second division team FC Lausanne-Sport and his brother Robert Ratcliffe, who is president of the Swiss club, has been heavily involved in the negotiations to purchase Nice.
Ratcliffe, who is also chairman and chief executive of Ineos, has been linked with takeovers of Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea, but was reportedly put off by the billions needed to invest in English soccer.
Robert Ratcliffe revealed the plans for the club post-takeover to local publication Nice-Matin in April, admitting that competing with Paris Saint-Germain was not in their sights.
“Paris is in another galaxy but there is the place just behind,” he said. “The Champions League is a goal of course.”
Adding “[Fighting with Monaco, Lyon and Marseille is] the goal, but maybe not the first season. It always takes a little time for things to take place.”
If completed, it will be the latest addition to the Ineos-backed sporting portfolio. The company completed its takeover of six-time Tour de France winners Team Sky – now Team Ineos – in March. Its sporting arm also includes the Ben Ainslie-led sailing America’s Cup team and is backing the 1:59 Challenge, Eliud Kipchoge’s bid to become the first man to run a marathon in less than two hours.
France’s Ligue 1 has been dominated for the last seven years by the Qatari-backed PSG. Though it is not yet known if the new owners would facilitate a spending spree, they bring considerable capital to the table. Ratcliffe has an estimated net worth of US$23 billion, while Ineos has posted annual revenues of around US$90 billion.
Nice finished last season in seventh place in the French top-flight. The team haven’t won a major trophy since the Coupe de France in 1997.