Sir Jim Ratcliffe could finally outmanoeuvre Qatar by attaching long-term ownership clauses to a new 25 per cent bid for Manchester United.
Telegraph Sport understands a wide array of investment options are being discussed with the Glazers, but the Ineos owner is still eyeing eventual control.
It is more than 10 months since United first announced its “strategic review”, but insiders insist talks are in “good health” with a number of parties.
The two frontrunners remain Ratcliffe, the petrochemicals billionaire, and Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani. However, sources close to talks explain the Briton has taken a significantly more flexible approach to finding the right deal.
While Sheikh Jassim is interested only in a full buyout, the Glazers are said to have held “multi-layered” discussions with other suitors in recent months.
Sir Jim, who had previously only formalised immediate takeover offers, is now understood to be considering a number of alternatives in an attempt to get the upper hand.
Despite facing mounting criticism from fans as the club faces fresh difficulties on the pitch this season, the Glazers, in turn, remain open-minded on options and are not yet ready to shake hands on any deal. About 69 per cent of United is owned by the American family, the rest spread among multiple stakeholders who own shares listed in New York.
‘Different ways to skin the cat’
With complexities to overcome around the club’s structure, Ratcliffe has promised the Glazers that he can be nimble in overcoming potential hurdles. Sheikh Jassim undoubtedly has more financial firepower, but those with knowledge of the situation say he wants an outright purchase or nothing.
Ratcliffe, however, is now considering an initially staggered offer. Prior to the summer, it seemed US investment firms, including Elliott Management, Carlyle Group Inc., Sixth Street Partners, and Ares Management Corp, were the only groups with interest in a minority stake.
Those close to the Glazers maintain the family is “looking for the right transaction, not just any transaction”. “Discussions are multi-layered,” the source added.
The penny appears to have dropped in the Ratcliffe camp that “there’s a lot of different ways to skin the cat”, another source added. In a video filmed to mark the Ineos’s 25th anniversary, the British billionaire made clear last month he is not giving up hope.
“You can’t really contemplate acquiring a brand like Manchester United and failing because the failure is just far too public and too excruciating,” said Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe, being interviewed for a promotional video filmed by Ineos, said he had learned from “difficult experiences” after buying French Ligue One club OGC Nice and Swiss Super League team FC Lausanne-Sport.
“The Manchester United bid would have been unthinkable two or three years ago if we hadn’t had some of the experiences, and quite a few of them difficult experiences with Lusanne and Nice,” he added.
While Ratcliffe initially stood by the terms he offered in the third round of bidding, Sheikh Jassim, his main rival, went on to table a fourth and then fifth and supposedly final outright bid on June 7.
Ratcliffe, whose Ineos firm generates $61 billion (£50.5 billion) in revenue, has lined up financing from banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc, while JPMorgan Chase & Co., Rothschild & Co. and Bank of America Corp. are among other banks advising or offering capital on a deal.