Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who in May bought Team Sky through his Ineos petrochemicals group – the UK’s largest privately-owned company – has explained some of the reasons behind the purchase in an interview on the Watts Occurring podcast hosted by Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe.
— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) December 16, 2019
The broadcaster Sky announced towards the end of 2018 that it would be ending its sponsorship of the UCI WorldTour outfit at the end of this year, saying that it wanted to back initiatives such as Sky Ocean Rescue instead.
It pledged to continue its backing throughout the 2019 season while a replacement sponsor could be found, and in April it was announced that Ineos – coincidentally, one of the biggest producers of plastic on the planet – would be buying the team and taking over title sponsorship.
Ratcliffe, who was already backing the UK’s Americas Cup challenge through the Ineos Team led by Sir Ben Ainslie, told Thomas and Rowe: “One of the reasons we bought it [Team Sky] is because of the sporting excellence in the team.”
Through Sir Bradley Wiggins, four time champion Chris Froome, and Thomas himself, Team Sky had won six of the past seven editions of the Tour de France – and this year, in Ineos colours, added a seventh win through the Colombian rider, Egan Bernal.
“It’s not an accident you’ve been so successful as a team,” Ratcliffe said. “You’ve taken the science of sport and cycling to a level we’ve not seen in that sport before, which is why you’ve been so successful.
“That’s quite interesting in Ineos because we have various sports angles and hopefully it will creep into other areas in football and sailing,” he added.
Brexit-backing billionaire Ratcliffe changed his domicile to Monaco earlier this year – the same Cote d’Azur tax haven principality that Thomas and Rowe, as well as Froome, have made their principal place of residence.
Explaining the rationale behind moving into cycling, he said: “Because we could, partly. It’s a bit like us doing deals in chemicals.
“We look at things that pop up. We don’t always necessarily plan ahead. We didn’t expect the opportunity to arise, but Sky decided to step out.
“Ineos is primarily in chemicals and petrochemicals so it has no consumer face. It doesn’t matter if the consumer knows or doesn’t know us, but we’ve started to get into fashion with Belstaff [the motorbike clothing brand] and the new car we’re developing, the Grenadier.”
“It becomes more important that ‘were recognised out in the public arena and of course buying the world’s finest cycling team covers a lot of territories.”
The company’s move into sponsorship in cycling has been viewed in some quarters as an exercise in ‘greenwashing’ and its debut at the Tour de Yorkshire in May and its participation in the Tour de France when it began in Brussels in July were both met with protests from anti-fracking campaigners.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.