Jim Ratcliffe has dropped interest in buying Manchester United, months after considering a takeover bid for the Premier League club.
The billionaire owner of petrochemicals firm INEOS also has no intention of making an offer for Liverpool, whose owner Fenway Sports Group this week confirmed it was open to selling its shares.
Ratcliffe will instead concentrate on French team Nice, which his company bought in 2019.
“Our position has developed since the summer and we are now focusing our efforts in Nice and raising our ambitions for the club to make them into a top tier club in France to compete with PSG,” said INEOS. “This would represent much better value for our investment than buying one of the top tier Premier league clubs.”
The news will come as a significant blow to United supporters who have long seen Ratcliffe as a potential saviour in their attempts to drive out owners the Glazer family.
Ratcliffe, who launched a late bid to buy Chelsea in May, is a childhood United fan.
He was interested in buying out the Glazers when speculation grew in the summer that the American family could sell.
But it is now clear that he is no longer exploring the possibility in owning an English top-flight club.
American investor Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital completed the takeover of Chelsea in May when beating a host of rival bids from some of the wealthiest people in the world.
Some industry experts initially predicted a sale in the region of 2 billion ($2.28-billion) when former owner Roman Abramovich put the London club up for sale.
But the total figure eventually reached 4.25 billion ($4.85-billion), which included a commitment of 1.75 billion ($2-billion) of further investment.
A large portion of that will be the cost of redeveloping Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium.
FSG, which bought Liverpool for £300-million ($340-million) in 2010, might expect to command a similar price for one of the most storied clubs in world soccer.
Liverpool has won the Champions League on six occasions and the English league title 19 times.
Under FSG and Jurgen Klopp it has re-established itself as one of the leading teams in Europe and has been the closest rival to Manchester City over the past five seasons.
Yet Ratcliffe is not the only potential buyer to decide against launching a bid.
The Ricketts family, who own the Chicago Cubs and earlier this year tried to buy Chelsea, does not intend to make a move for Liverpool.
FSG might still expect a significant amount of interest, given the number of bidders for Chelsea, which included Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and a consortium led by former British Airways and Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton.
But it is intriguing that Ratcliffe and the Ricketts family would not hold even a tentative interest in an opportunity such as Liverpool, particularly given the global interest in the Premier League.
It could point to the growing difficulty in competing with Abu Dhabi backed City, who this week announced club record revenues of £613-million ($693-million) and profits of £41.7-million ($47-million).
Under manager Pep Guardiola it has won four of the last five league titles and strengthened further in the summer when signing the most sought-after striker in world soccer in Erling Haaland.
“Nobody can compete with City in that,” Klopp said last month. “You have the best team in the world and you put in the best striker (Erling Haaland) on the market. No matter what it costs, you just do it ... What does Liverpool do? We cannot act like them. It’s not possible.”
There is little sign of City’s owners slowing down, with chief executive Ferran Soriano this week sending an ominous warning to rivals.
“The last 10 years have been the most successful in Manchester City’s history, and I am certain the next decade will be even better,” he said. “We have more to achieve, and you can be sure we will do everything we can to ensure that the Club cements its place among the very best in the world.”
Newcastle United, which was bought out by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) last year, is quickly establishing itself as a force in English soccer.
It is up to third in the Premier League this season and the club confirmed on Thursday further investment of £70.4-million ($80-million).
“We are at the beginning of a long-term plan that aims to build a club that can compete consistently at the highest levels of English and European football,” said Newcastle chief executive Darren Eales.
At a cost of £305-million ($348-million), Newcastle looks like a bargain in comparison to Chelsea and what Liverpool might command.