Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is set to save Team Sky from folding with a multi-million pound commitment which will ensure they continue under the title Team Ineos, named after the billionaire’s petrochemicals company.
Sources close to Team Sky suggest an announcement is likely on Tuesday which will see an end to speculation over the future of the team and its cabal of elite riders, after Sky revealed it was ending its involvement in December.
Sky announced it was pulling its sponsorship of the British team after a decade of Grand Tour dominance which included six Tour de France triumphs, but which was also tainted by controversies around the team’s use of therapeutic use exemptions that a parliamentary report concluded “crossed an ethical line”.
Key figures at the heart of the Sky era are set to continue under the new ownership, including team principal Dave Brailsford, six-time Grand Tour winner Chris Froome, reigning Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas, and talented young rider Egan Bernal, who will lead the team at the Giro d’Italia in May.
Sky’s costs have grown over the years to an annual budget of around £34m, significantly more than their closest rivals. Yet that gap could now further expand should Ratcliffe throw his financial muscle behind the venture.
Ratcliffe, who has a net worth of around £21bn, is a keen cyclist, sailor and football fan, and announced a partnership with Sir Ben Ainslie last year in an effort to win the 2021 America’s Cup, reportedly investing more than £100m in the project. He also owns FC Lausanne-Sport, who play in the Swiss Super League, and was linked with a possible takeover of Chelsea Football Club last year.
Until recently the 66-year-old had kept a relatively low profile. He is a passionate Brexiteer who moved his company’s headquarters to Switzerland in 2010, before returning to west London in 2015, and has attracted some controversy of his own after moving to Monaco for tax reasons – where several key figures in Team Sky also live.
The involvement of his company Ineos, which has been involved in lobbying to loosen fracking regulations and has been criticised for its intense use of plastics, also appears to be jarringly at odds with Sky’s prominent Ocean Rescue campaign which adorned the riders’ jerseys last year.
The new sponsorship deal will come into effect in 2020.