Nice-Matin report that CEO of INEOS and the recent new owner of cycling team “Sky” Jim Ratcliffe has informed Ligue 1 side OGC Nice owner Chien Lee that he wants to purchase the club.
Ratcliffe is worth more than €24bn and has charged his brother, Robert, with purchasing Les Aiglons. Robert was in Nice today.
Jim Ratcliffe, is football mad, a Manchester United fan since his infancy, but also an owner of a villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and domiciled in Monaco. The boss of INEOS wants to add OGC Nice to his growing portfolio of sports interests.
This morning, Robert got off an EasyJet flight from Geneva at the Côte D’Azur airport, he then went to visit the office of Christian Estrosi, Côte D’Azur kingmaker and Mayor of Nice to make clear of his seriousness and intent.
A source close to the bid said: “This is proof that he is very motivated by the idea of purchasing Le Gym.”
It was in November that INEOS first made contact with the President Jean-Pierre Rivère – Sporting Director Julien Fournier duo, who have both since left the club. At the time, Nice board members were clear on one thing: Chien Lee, Paul Conway, Jean-Pierre Rivère & Julien Fournier could no longer work together.
Rivère & Fournier wanted rid of their Chinese-American investors and intensified contact with potential investors, including Ratcliffe. Lee and his colleagues saw no problem, a sale price was even fixed. At the start, there was the promise of doubling, even tripling what the Chinese-American consortium had bought their majority shares for to get Lee & co. out: “which never happens in football,” a source familiar with the series of events uttered.
Investment funds came forward to try to purchase the club, but Rivère and Fournier were convinced that the INEOS deal would be the best for the future of OGC Nice. “The deal could take the club to a whole new dimension. We might never get the chance again,” said a source close to the potential deal.
Robert Ratcliffe arrived on the Côte D’Azur at the beginning of February. He went straight to the club’s training centre to meet with Chien Lee. Both parties signed an NDA, a contract that ensures all parties’ secrecy in negotiations. An offer was set to be made, worth €90m, but Ratcliffe barely had the chance to get the cheque book out before Lee suddenly changed his mind!
24 hours later, the Chinese businessman insisted that the club was no longer for sale – the Ratcliffe clan were furious, but have refused to give up. Chien Lee, who at this point appeared to have disposed of business partner Paul Conway, demands more money.
In his eyes, OGC Nice are worth at least €100m. With the increase in Ligue 1 TV rights money coming shortly, President Gauthier Ganaye has told owner Lee that the club will continue to rise in value in the coming years. So Lee turned down the richest man in Great Britain.
Having made Gilles Grimandi the club’s new Technical Director and Gauthier Ganaye the club president, Lee is convinced that he has surrounded the club with the right people to bring Nice into success.
In an interview with the club’s official website last month, Lee said: “We can imagine ourselves here for 5, 10 years, maybe more.” Lee also has great respect for Patrick Vieira, who he views as a fantastically calming influence. Despite a horrendous pair of transfer windows, Mario Balotelli drama and changes at boardroom level, OGC Nice remain in the fight for the Europa League.
In recent weeks, Vieira has genuinely grown closer to President Ganaye. The sale of OGC Nice will be dependent on the desires of Chien Lee – a deal that would redistribute the cards once again at the Ligue 1 club and potentially, irrevocably shake up the hierarchy in the French top flight.