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Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images (File).

Report: UK billionaire might save Team Sky

Billionaire owner of global chemical company is linked to Team Sky as a potential sponsor to save the team after 2019 season.

British media are reporting that one of the UK’s richest businessmen will likely be the new backer for Team Sky after 2019.

The Daily Mail reported earlier this month that Jim Ratcliffe, whose personal fortune is estimated at more than $25 billion, was in sponsor takeover talks with Team Sky. The Cycling Podcast and CyclingNews both report this week that a deal is imminent.

Ratcliffe is the majority shareholder of Ineos, described as one of the world’s largest chemical companies with sales topping $90 billion annually.

Team Sky remains mum about any details of its future sponsorship structure, only insisting that the team plans to continue beyond 2019 when longtime backer Sky leaves at the end of the racing season.

The latest reports of an Ineos deal come following suggestions that a new backer was imminent. Team Sky riders and staffers have been dropping hints that new sponsorship was in the works. Last month, Italian sport director Matteo Tosatto told the Spanish daily Marca that a European-based sponsor would be revealed before the start of the Giro d’Italia in May.

Other rumors naming possible sponsorship suitors, including ICA owner Sylvan Adams or something backed by a Colombian oil company, do not appear to have come to fruition.

Ratcliffe, who raised hackles in the UK when he moved to tax-friendly Monaco just months after being knighted, has been moving into the sports industry with investments in soccer and yachting. Bringing what’s reportedly the UK’s largest personal fortune to the table, Ratcliffe clearly would have no problem covering Team Sky’s estimated annual budget of more than $40 million.