Manchester United have announced that chief executive Richard Arnold will be stepping down from his role, departing the club after 16 years of service.
Arnold originally joined the Red Devils as part of the commercial team, later taking over as head of business operations at the club in 2013.
However, when previous chief Ed Woodward departed, Arnold was chosen as his replacement just under two years ago. During the 52-year-old’s time as chief executive, the club has had to navigate challenging issues, not helped by unpredictable performances on the pitch.
But just why is Arnold leaving the post after less than two years and what does it mean for United?
Confirmation of Arnold’s exit has come as Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group begin finalising their acquisition of a 25% stake in United. The British businessman, whose firm already owns Ligue 1 side Nice, is expected to complete his minority investment in the club in the near future.
Despite only acquiring a minority stake, Ratcliffe is expected to run the day-to-day operations at Old Trafford, taking over from Arnold and the club’s football director John Murtough.
Arnold’s time as chief executive has not been short of scrutiny. The long-time servant to the club was criticised for his handling of the Mason Greenwood situation after assault charges were made and later dropped against the 22-year-old. Arnold had appeared ready to bring the attacker back into the team, before performing a U-turn after significant backlash from the media and supporters.
Ratcliffe, who is likely to be running the club alongside close aide Sir Dave Brailsford, is expected to appoint a new chief executive upon the formalisation of his investment.
After Arnold’s departure, Patrick Stewart will become the club’s chief executive on an interim basis. Stewart is currently in the role of general counsel, but he will now take over from Arnold alongside his current duties until a permanent appointment is made.
In United’s statement on Arnold’s exit, the club said: “Richard Arnold has decided to step down as chief executive of Manchester United after 16 years with the club.
“Patrick Stewart will take over as interim CEO, in addition to his existing role as General Counsel, with Richard continuing to provide transitional support until the end of December. A search process will be carried out for a new permanent CEO.”
One name heavily linked with replacing Arnold as chief executive is Jean Claude Blanc. The Frenchman has worked with both Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain in the past, regarded as crucial in the former’s return to the top of Italian football during the 2010s.
Blanc also has experience in a range of other sports, including cycling, running and sailing. He currently works as a chief executive at Ratcliffe’s INEOS group, making him an obvious choice.
There is expected to be an exodus of high-profile employees upon Ratcliffe’s arrival as the businessman, who is a lifelong fan of the Red Devils, attempts to get the club back on track.
Even with the Glazer family still owning a controlling majority stake, Ratcliffe’s immediate influence is set to be significant. Another potential incoming could be Paul Mitchell as sporting director. Formerly of Southampton, Tottenham, RB Leipzig and Monaco, he is revered as a talent scout and recruiter.
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