Robert Ratcliffe arrived in Nice on Thursday morning. Exclusively for Nice-Matin, he reveals the outlines of his project for the club and affirms his willingness to buy it back. Brother of Jim, the richest man in the United Kingdom, Robert does not have his head in the stars, but believes that the Gym can aim for the Champions League if he were to fall into INEOS' portfolio.
On Thursday morning, Robert, who lives in the Chelsea area, answered all our questions with a British phlegma.
When were the first contacts with the OGC Nice?
The first physical meeting took place in January. On the other hand, the first exchanges took place in November.
It was the former management, Jean-Pierre (Rivère) and Julien (Fournier), who wanted to contact us. This was done through the Club of Lausanne. I've been aware of everything from the beginning....
Why did you become interested in the OGC Nice?
We watched a lot of clubs, several leagues... First, we want to be involved in very high-level football and experience special, special moments.
Not all companies are interested in football. Yes, we want to invest in this sector. League 1 has great players like Mbappé and Neymar, some of the best in the world.
There are some nice oppositions, it's very interesting. There's a show. Secondly, it's important for us to position ourselves on a club that has a long history, a lot of supporters. The atmosphere of a club is crucial. We don't want something bland.
I even learned that the city's trams were painted red and black. That means a lot about the enthusiasm for this club. We really like it. I made the mistake of saying that the colours of the jersey were similar to those of Milan. In fact, it's the opposite (smiles)..... The history of a club is very important.
What is your strategy?
We want to buy a club, develop it and take it to the next level. This is the mentality of INEOS, our values. Nice is a mid-table team but I know they often end up higher with a good team and good management.
We don't want to buy a club where we have to rebuild everything. There's a beautiful stadium, a brand new training centre. From the outside, the work done in this club in recent years is impressive. At INEOS, we have always invested in sport in a consistent way.
Nice is in line with our philosophy, especially since my brother and his associates have ties to the French Riviera. Over the last twenty years, they have spent most of their time here after London. So if we can combine all that with our passion for football and go see our team at the stadium, that would be perfect.
Nice is a good value for money?
I don't know the selling price and I can't tell you how much we're willing to spend. We're careful, we want to pay the right price... We won't give in to overbidding.
What do you know about the club?
My brother is a Manchester United fan so he knows Patrick Vieira well. It was hot when he was captain of Arsenal, he had a lot of enemies in Old Trafford (smiles)... He has a great CV, does a great job in Nice. He went to Manchester City, where he trained as a coach.
Have you ever met Dog Lee, the owner of the club?
Yes, we had an appointment. He was charming. That was about a month ago. The meeting went very well, we thought it would lead to something because he told me that he was open for sale.
We even visited the training centre and the stadium with his permission. Twenty-four hours later, we were informed that he no longer wanted to receive an offer. We found it somewhat surprising. We're not used to that. He gave us the feeling that he was ready to sell the club.
We had a solid case, arguments. A quick analysis had been done and the buyback offer was ready. We didn't want to hang around to prepare for next season.
What is the value of the OGC Nice?
We don't know. I'm not here to speculate.
100 million euros?
I don't know (firm).
Is OGC Nice a good deal?
We didn't look at the other clubs as seriously as Nice. With INEOS, we bought the Sky team which is based here, Lausanne which has a French-speaking side... The OGC Nice meets many of our criteria.
Have you ever made a buyback offer?
No. We can't make an offer without knowing more about the club.
Can you tell us about your report to the Côte d'Azur?
We have a great deal of affection for the region. It's so easy to get to Nice. The stadium is ten minutes from the airport, everything is easily accessible.
What is your brother's relationship with football?
He played in high school, but later he turned to marathons and skiing. He's careful with his knees. He's a Manchester United nut, the biggest picture he has at home is with his son at Camp Nou. It dates back to 1999 and the final won against Bayern Munich.
He goes to games very often. Before the beginning of each meeting, and especially on Mondays, the games are rehearsed. The discussions are lively, everyone speaks football. We also make some bets between us (smiles). We live football.
What does he think of the proposed acquisition of OGC Nice?
He is very interested in it. Last week, he texted me to find out where it was at while he was on ski vacation.
What about Lausanne?
There may be a bridge between the two clubs, in particular to develop the academy. Young people are part of our plan.
Is it possible to compete with the best in Ligue 1?
If I say today that we can compete with the PSG, I would not be taken seriously. I would lose all my credibility right away. Paris is in another galaxy, but I think there's the place right behind it.
So it is the objective to be in a fight with Marseille, Lyon or Monaco?
(Direct) Yes, that's the goal, but maybe not in the first season. It always takes a little time for things to get in place.
Why did you agree to meet us?
(He pauses). That's a good question. A club is human! We want to take the pulse of the people of Nice, to know if we would be welcome or not.
The reactions of the supporters will be very important. It is even essential. I know they are very attached to the club. When you buy a club, it's to stay there for a long time. We are really very interested in the OGC Nice. We haven't given up on buying this club at all.
Team Sky, the America's Cup, Lausanne Sports: why do you invest in sport?
For twenty years, INEOS has been a successful company in the field of petrochemistry. My brother is a great sports enthusiast. He rides a lot of bicycles, he has climbed the Madonna Pass several times. I did it several times in his wheel, it was very hard! We used to have coffee like Turbie.
As for the America's Cup, it is a competition created by the English 150 years ago. They never won it, we want to fix it. Football has always been a passion. I subscribe to Chelsea because I live in London. We see beautiful football.