UK's richest man given green light to buy Nice
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the richest man in the UK, has been given the final authorisation to complete his takeover of French football club Nice.
The French Competition and Markets Authority gave the green light on Wednesday so the operation can now go through.
Ratcliffe, the founder and CEO of chemical giant Ineos, will now pay €100 million to owners Chien Lee and Alex Zheng to officially become the new boss of the club. The bank transfer should be done by the end of the week and the businessman, who is worth around €21 billion, will attend the Mediterranean derby against Marseille in Ligue 1 on Wednesday, Aug. 28 as Nice's new owner.
Nice are now the most expensive club in French football history, costing significantly more than the €79m spent by the Qatar Royal family to buy Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 and the €45m paid out by Frank McCourt for the acquisition of Marseille in September 2016. It is also more than Bordeaux (€95m) and Lille (€80m) were sold for in the last few months.
They will now be able to spend money and recruit before the end of the transfer window on Sept. 2.
Ratcliffe has promised to invest heavily in the club to take it to the Champions League and to compete with PSG for the Ligue 1 title and will back manager Patrick Vieira in the coming days with up to five new players.
Kasper Dolberg, the Ajax and Denmark striker, is likely to be his first signing. The two clubs are close to an agreement for €20m rising to €25m, sources have told ESPN FC. Napoli winger Adam Ounas could also come back in Ligue 1 as Nice will intensify their pursuit of him.
Stanley N'Soki, the young PSG defender, is also on Nice's radar as is Alexis Claude-Maurice, one of the revelations in Ligue 2 last season. Nice have already had a €12.5m bid rejected by Lorient already for the forward and should put a new bid of €15m this week.
Sources have told ESPN FC that Dolberg and Ounas could be finalised in time to be eligible for the clash with Marseille. This takeover has been a long process for Ratcliffe and his brother Robert, who is heavily involved in the project.
First, Ratcliffe had to convince Lee and Zheng who were reluctant to sell. After an initial offer of €80m was rejected, he raised it to €100m. Then he had to present his project to the club's employees who agreed to the takeover.
The DNCG, the organisation responsible for monitoring and overseeing the accounts of professional clubs in France and which has a say in every takeover in Ligue 1 or Ligue 2, also gave its authorisation after going through all the accounts and paperwork for the potential takeover before being ratified by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Ratcliffe, who now lives in Monaco, has been investing heavily in sports recently. As well as Nice, he also owns the Swiss football club Lausanne Sport, the Ineos cycling team (ex-SKY) and has backed Sir Ben Ainslie financially for the next America's Cup.