Team Sky is widely expected to become Team Ineos in 2020, with Ineos - a multinational chemical company controlled by Britain’s richest person, Jim Ratcliffe - set to step in and save the British WorldTour team.
Ineos has been reported to be in talks with Team Sky in recent weeks, but several sources at Tirreno-Adriatico told Cyclingnews on Thursday that the team’s future has been assured, with Ineos the preferred option rather than a more complex Colombian solution with support from state-controlled oil and gas company Ecopetrol.
During the recent UAE Tour, directeur sportif Matteo Tosatto told Spanish newspaper Marca that the team had secured a new sponsor with an announcement expected before the Tour de France or even sooner. He said the sponsor would be European.
Team Sky declined to comment for this story when contacted by Cyclingnews.
Last year, Ratcliffe and Ineos invested a reported £110 million in Ben Ainslie’s sailing team that is hoping to fight for the next America’s Cup. The team was named Ineos Team UK. Team Sky appears set to be called Team Ineos, a simple flip of words to perhaps create a link between the two teams.
Internet observers have noticed that the TeamIneos.com website domain was registered on March 5, with the @teamineos account also registered on Twitter.
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Team Sky has 12 riders under contract for 2020, including Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, and Cyclingnews understands that team manager Dave Brailsford has already started to approach riders and their agents to further bolster the squad’s roster for 2020 and beyond.
Television broadcaster Sky announced in December that 2019 would be its final year of sponsorship and ownership of the team, despite riders being under contract. Under new UCI WorldTour rules for 2020, teams have to confirm their intent to apply for a WorldTour license by April 1.
Ineos is 60 per cent owned by Manchester-born Ratcliffe. He helped build the company via a series of mergers and acquisitions, creating the second-largest chemical company in the world.
Ratcliffe is reportedly worth £21 billion, according to The Sunday Times Rich List. He was recently criticised in the Britain media for moving his vast personal wealth to Monte Carlo to avoid a reported four million pounds tax bill. Team Sky leaders Froome and Thomas are both based in Monte Carlo, with the team having a training base in nearby France.
Ratcliffe is keen triathlete who regularly competes successfully in events. Last year he reportedly enquired about buying the Chelsea football team from Roman Abramovich, with speculation he made a two billion pound offer. He then opted to buy a controlling stake in the Lausanne-Sport football club in Switzerland.