Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS have been chipping away at BP for 30 years

INEOS chief executive Jim Ratcliffe knows BP well.

The entrepreneur has been picking away at the FTSE 100 company’s assets for nearly 30 years.

It started back in 1992 when Ratcliffe formed private equity firm Inspec with the sole purpose to buy BP’s chemical arm.

Inspec was later renamed INEOS and in 2005 the company bought Innovene and Grangemouth off the oiler for $9 billion ($7.2 billion).

He then went back to the well and bought the North Sea Forties Pipeline System and Kinneil Terminal in 2017.

INEOS bought Grangemouth off BP

Today INEOS got its hands on the rest of BP’s chemistry set, snapping up BP’s aromatics and acetyls businesses for $5 billion.

Even for Ratcliffe – whose firm INEOS generates $85 billion in revenue – it is a blockbuster deal.

There’s only a couple of petrochemical assets left at BP, in Gelsenkirchen and Mulheim in Germany, and who’s to say BP boss Bernard Looney won’t sell them to him further down the line.

The deal also highlights how Looney and Ratcliffe are two men on very different paths.

Looney is conducting a green revolution at the traditional blue chip oiler in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

He’s a good orator who sells dreams – as anybody who was in the audience at the Lancaster Hotel in February would testify to.

Whether he succeeds or not the process will be hard and in the public eye.

Ratcliffe is much more pragmatic. He doesn’t mind ugly, unfashionable assets so long as they turn a profit.

He’s the businessman even the most successful are envious of. A risk taker, who makes huge sums of money and looks like he’s having a pretty good time doing it.

A pint with Ratcliffe in the Grenadier in Knightsbridge – when he’s not in Switzerland or Monaco – is by all accounts a good time.

He also has the luxury of his company being private. INEOS acts like a private equity firm, whipping assets into shape over a four to five year cycle.

Looney has the share price ticker and asset managers hanging over his head.

Tom Crotty, director of INEOS group, said: “Being private has its benefits. We can make decisions extremely fast without jumping through hoops for shareholders.”

Ratcliffe’s public persona is through sport and Land Rovers rather than smelters, perhaps a deliberate distraction for the media and public.

Last year INEOS bought Nice and cycling’s Team Sky, adding to the purchase of Swiss second division side Lausanne in 2017.

Looney publicises himself through social media fad Instagram.

The two men are at opposite ends of the energy and corporate spectrum, but they could be doing business together for a while longer yet.

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