Sir Jim Ratcliffe & INEOS’ Ownership of Nice

Tom Lever

Who is Sir Jim Ratcliffe & What is INEOS?

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is a 70-year-old UK billionaire who made his fortune via the chemical engineering industry. In 2018, he was given the title of the richest man in the UK with a net worth of £21.05 Billion. In 1998, Jim created his company INEOS which is a global manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and oil products.

Their Involvement in sport prior to OGC Nice

Jim Ratcliffe’s and INEOS’ involvement in sport began in 2017 when they became the owner of Swiss Super League side FC Lausanne-Sport. In their first season, the side were relegated and only regained their Super League status in 2020. As of today, Lausanne are fourth in the Challenge League after facing relegation once again last season. Overall, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s aim to make his Swiss side a club that can challenge for European football hasn’t exactly gone to plan.

INEOS and Jim Ratcliffe have also been involved in sailing and cycling, owning two teams, INEOS Team UK alongside Ben Ainslie and Team INEOS which was rebranded from the Team Sky cycling franchise.

On top of this, they have a 33% share in Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team with team principal Toto Wolff and Daimler AG owning the majority of the team as part of the Mercedes-Benz Group.

Why OGC Nice?

In August 2019, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS purchased French Ligue 1 side OGC Nice for approximately €100M. Neighbouring Nice is the wealth playground of Monaco, which is only a thirty minute drive away.

Jim Ratcliffe has been a Monaco resident since 2019 and rumours suggest that he will save approximately £4bn in tax by living in the French city where tax is essentially non-existent. Ratcliffe had toyed with buying a Premier League club prior to Nice but he believed they were all overvalued and the French club provided the Englishman with a good value for money investment, especially considering his new residency in France. Furthermore, Nice is the second most visited city in the nation behind Paris, which provides multiple money-making opportunities. Tourists are vital to all big clubs as they provide a reliable source of income via the sales of merchandise and increased ticket prices.

OGC Nice is a historic club in France, but they haven’t achieved domestic success since the 1950’s. If Jim Ratcliffe was able to create a side that can challenge for the title and compete in the UEFA Champions League, then his investment could become extremely profitable. This was part of his initial 3-5 year plan.

Ligue 1 was rapidly developing and the trend projected that further improvement would occur, which is another reason as to why Nice was attractive. Another aspect of Sir Jim’s plan was to sign young players and develop them into first-team starters, whether the idea was to keep them or sell them once they become valuable is unknown.

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On field Performances Since Purchase

The season before Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS completed their takeover, Nice finished in seventh place which put the side in a strong position to progress in the following season. A new season with new owners was an exciting period for the Nice fans, however, the season was cancelled 28 games in due to the pandemic. OGC Nice were in fifth place when the league was stopped, which put them in a European spot with only ten games remaining, their last game of the season was a 2-1 home victory against rivals Monaco.

As Nice finished in a European spot, they were awarded with a place in the UEFA Europa League in the following season, even though the league was cancelled. Their European campaign was extremely underwhelming as they finished bottom of Group C, winning only one game, and losing the other five. Bayer Leverkusen, Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Slavia Praha were the other teams in the group. Their Europa League journey ended with a 3-2 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen which saw manager Patrick Vieira get sacked following five consecutive defeats. OGC Nice also finished in 9th place in Ligue 1, which wouldn’t have been anticipated after their 19/20 season.

The 21/22 season was more successful for Nice as they finished 5th and qualified for the newly introduced UEFA Conference League. They also reached the Coupe de France final under new boss Christophe Galtier, but they, unfortunately, lost 1-0 to Nantes. This season, a new man was in charge once again, as Lucien Favre replaced Galtier who went to PSG. After a 1-0 defeat in their UEFA Conference League opener, Nice looked set for another disappointing European run. However, they finished top of Group D and progressed to the knockouts.

Performances in Ligue 1 haven’t been up to scratch this season, as Nice are currently in 10th place, 12 points behind 5th place Rennes. If European football is to be secured for next season, then it seems that the Conference League will be the only route. OGC Nice have also recently sacked their manager Favre following a 1-0 defeat in the Coupe de France to National League relegation battlers Le Puy.

Successful Signings or Transfer Tragedies?

Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS’ first season in charge saw them attempt to put their plan together. They brought in seven players with the oldest being 22-year-old Adam Ounas on loan from Napoli. They splashed around €45M on Kasper Dolberg from Ajax, Alexis Claude-Maurice from Lorient and Stanley Nsoki from PSG. None of their careers took off at Nice however, they did sign Khephren Thuram who has developed into an important player. That season Nice’s most exciting player, Allan Saint-Maximin was sold to Newcastle.

The following season saw an expenditure of €29.23M, with the emphasis still on signing exciting prospects. Amine Gouiri joined from Lyon and Nice also dipped into the loan market, signing Rony Lopes, Jean-Clair Todibo and William Saliba. This season saw an overall investment of €8.72M, which isn’t very much for a side in need of improvements. Last season, Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS invested more into their squad, signing the likes of Calvin Stengs, Jean Clair Todibo permanently and Andy Delort from fellow French club Montpellier. To sum up Nice’s transfer business since the new ownership, they also sold Nsoki for almost half the fee they paid for him in 2019.

This season, Nice seemed to have changed their scouting strategy slightly, opting for a more balanced approach with both experienced players and youth coming into the squad. They spent €81.5M this summer, bringing in players with Ligue 1 experience such as Sofiane Diop from Monaco and Gaetan Laborde from Rennes. They also allowed Amine Gouiri to leave and he moved to Rennes for €28M, potentially indicating that Nice are slowly becoming a feeder club rather than a side with aspirations of triumph. Interestingly, they have also brought in players who have strong ties to the Premier League, with Nicolas Pepe, Aaron Ramsey, Ross Barkley, Joe Bryan and Kasper Schmeichel all joining the French outfit.

However, following more underwhelming league performances, ex-Crystal Palace Sporting Director, Iain Moody’s transfer strategy of signing Premier League-proven players has been halted, with the appointment of Florent Ghisolfi coming in as the new Sporting Director of the club - the man who masterminded Lens to become challengers for European places on a limited budget.

Verdict

Overall, it seems that Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS’ time at Nice has been somewhat of an experiment for them. Manager sackings and a lack of clear strategy in the transfer market and inconsistencies on the field has meant that Nice haven’t really progressed since the new ownership.

With Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s interest in owning a Premier League club increasing, it is slightly worrying that Nice could get thrown to the side. Success in the UEFA Europa Conference League will be key to the short-term future of Nice and whether Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS decide that their 3-5 year project isn’t as important as it once was.

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