Pro-Brexit British billionaire buys Swiss football club Lausanne

Ineos, the petrochemicals company founded by billionaire Brexit backer Jim Ratcliffe, has announced plans to buy a Swiss football club, the latest in a spree of seemingly unconnected acquisitions.

The privately owned firm said it was buying FC Lausanne-Sport, which plays in Switzerland’s top football league, to build on existing links it had forged with teams near its offices in the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Lausanne.

David Thompson, the chief executive of Ineos Football, said the club had a good record of bringing forward young players locally. “It’s just a great opportunity for us really. We plan to bring in three or four senior players to form the core, the spine, of the team,” he said.

Thompson said the team’s manager, Fabio Celestini, had his backing and Ineos would support the club moving to a new stadium in 18 months’ time.

The value of the investment was not disclosed. It is not the first eye-opening acquisition by the company, which last month bought fashion brand Belstaff, famous for its motorcycle jackets.

In September the firm said it wanted UK government subsidies to build a successor to the Land Rover Defender, which ceased production in 2016. “It’s the opportunity that has arisen at the time,” said Thompson of the connection between the three projects.

Ineos attracted criticism for avoiding tax when it moved its headquarters to Switzerland in 2010, before moving back to the UK in 2016. About half of its businesses, including the Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland which was at the centre of a bitter dispute over working conditions, are in the UK. The rest are in Switzerland.

Ratcliffe has overseen the company’s plan to become a big player in fracking, buying up more licences to explore for shale gas and oil in England.

Ineos is also fighting a legal challenge against an injunction it secured against protests near its shale sites, but it is yet to begin drilling or fracking.

The company cemented its foothold in fossil fuels this year, buying up oil and gas fields from a Danish state-owned firm for £1bn and paying BP £200m for a North Sea pipeline.