Who's the U.K. billionaire behind the $1.4B play for Chesapeake’s Texas shale assets?

Jim Ratcliffe is bidding for the Manchester United soccer team. INEOS, his chemicals company, has a deal for the Eagle Ford shale assets of Chesapeake Energy.

Jim Ratcliffe is bidding for the Manchester United soccer team. INEOS, his chemicals company, has a deal for the Eagle Ford shale assets of Chesapeake Energy.

Peter Byrne/Associated Press

For Jim Ratcliffe, breaking into the Texas oil and gas business with a $1.4 billion deal for Chesapeake Energy's Eagle Ford assets is a big move. But it's not his biggest.

The billionaire founder of INEOS, a global chemicals business, also has Manchester United, one of England's most notable soccer clubs, in his sights. Ratcliffe, who submitted a second bid last month for Man U, joined a multibillion-dollar bidding war that is expected to reach as high as $6 billion and make the club the most expensive sports team in history, the Associated Press reported .

Ratcliffe is also expanding INEOS and preparing for the U.S. launch of the Grenadier , a luxury off-road vehicle he poured $1 billion into developing after he identified a "hole in the marketplace " in 2017 and sought to fill it.

The chairman and majority shareholder of INEOS, now based in Monaco according to Bloomberg News, has a net worth of more than $23 billion, according to Forbes , with most of his business done under the company umbrella. It employs 26,000 people globally and generates about $65 billion annually in revenue, it said in a statement.

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INEOS oversees the bulk of its energy industry business from a headquarters in League City. The company said it has invested $21 billion in the U.S. and employs around 5,500 people here, largely in Texas.

The deal with Oklahoma-based Chesapeake marks an expansion of  INEOS's interests in Texas and its first foray into U.S. shale, giving it access to 2,300 wells in a shale play that stretches across the state. Chesapeake is divesting in Eagle Ford as it shifts its focus toward the Haynesville and Marcellus plays in Louisiana and the Northeast, respectively.

To be sure, Ratcliffe is no stranger to Texas shale. In 2016, INEOS pioneered a fleet of so-called dragon-class ships that opened a new market for ethane made from shale-borne natural gas as it built a network between Houston and European petrochemical companies.

A chemical engineer by training, Ratcliffe began his career working within Exxon Mobil’s chemicals company and served as director of advanced materials at private equity group Advent International. After leading a series of chemical firm buyouts, he founded INEOS in 1998 and bought BP's chemicals business for $9 billion.

INEOS is now one of the world's largest chemical companies, and has expanded far beyond its core business over the past decade. It bought luxury clothing brand Belstaff in 2017 and later branched into sports franchises such as French soccer club OGC Nice and Formula One racing team Mercedes-AMG Petronas.

A fan of off-roading, Ratcliffe launched his first off-road vehicle last year through INEOS Automotive.

Was it a massive leap to become a carmaker when he'd never done it before? It's a question asked of Ratcliffe in a video posted to the company's website.

"No," Ratcliffe said. "It’s just the belief that if you set your mind to do something, you can do it."