Jean-Claude Blanc – sport business’ smooth operator on a new mission with INEOS

The former CEO of PSG, Jean-Claude Blanc, found himself on Saturday night in Nice representing an opponent of the Paris club for the first time since he took on the role with the Qatari ownership group in 2011, now overseeing all sports activities of British chemicals company INEOS.

With his face hidden under a New York Yankees cap, as if he wanted to somewhat hide is affiliation with OGC Nice, Jean-Claude Blanc (59) waited a month to reappear in the small world of the Ligue 1, after his arrival at the head of INEOS Sport. It was in the stands of the Louis II stadium, during the derby won against Monaco (3-0, February 26th), where the former Paris CEO was seated next to Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the boss of the British company who bought OGC Nice in August 2019.

Guided by his passions, the billionaire has built a sports empire that includes cycling, the America’s Cup, Formula 1, and athletics. He also owns another football club in Switzerland, Lausanne Sport, and he is currently in the bidding process for a third. Competing with a Qatari fund, he is in contention to take over Manchester United and the sale process brought him in person to visit Old Trafford on March 17th. He went there with Sir Dave Brailsford, director of sport at INEOS after achieving successes with the Great British Olympics team and in the cycling world, and of course with Blanc, who is always discreet but apparently already essential.

Blanc is rated as one of the best sports executives in the world, with a member of the INEOS team telling L’Équipe: “He is brilliant. He is a super pro who is excellent in building relationships. His arrival is fantastic for us.”

Based in Monaco, where INEOS has its offices, Blanc is responsible for coordinating the development of the whole group’s sports properties and has therefore increased the amount of travel that he has been doing in recent weeks. In short, his mission is to professionalise the INEOS galaxy. Brailsford leads on-field and in the sports, Blanc leads the business and the development of the global brand.

His years in PSG give him major legitimacy in this field and Jean-Pierre Rivère dreamed of collaborating with Blanc, who did part of his university studies in Nice. “We have known each other since I arrived in football in 2011. I really appreciate him, it is a real pleasure to work with him. He is extremely competent and he embodies everything I love on a human level, with real values. He is frank, humble, efficient, pleasant on a daily basis. Jean-Claude ticked all the boxes for this project.”

Former CEO of the French Tennis Federation and the ASO (owned, like L’Équipe, by the Amaury group), Blanc has already dabbled in sports other than football. His journey in this sport started at Juventus, first as CEO and then as president, from October 2009 to April 2010. At the outset, he is not intended to be particularly focused on OGC Nice but his job will necessarily change if INEOS buys Manchester United. The Brits swear they will similarly invest in Nice no matter what, but such an acquisition would tip the scales in England’s favour and the Red Devils would take up the majority of Blanc’s time.

In the meantime, OGC Nice’s CEO, Fabrice Bocquet is delighted with Blanc’s association with the project:

“It’s a real opportunity for INEOS, OGC Nice, and it’s a privilege for me. We discuss club topics several times a week, communicating regularly. He is a bit like the Lionel Messi of sport business, it’s not just a question of expertise but of interpersonal skills. He brings his vision, his network, his calm, his experience.”

OGC Nice requires this support because the club has tried repeatedly to improve the quality of its marketing output, without really succeeding in recent years. They must attract more people to the stadium week-in, week-out. Despite PSG’s victory over Les Aiglons last night, it does feel that as INEOS as a holistic sporting structure goes from strength to strength, PSG on and off the pitch have been crumbling since Blanc’s December departure. The supreme manager of other peoples’ egos and emotions has left the capital.

| GFFN

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