Patrick Stewart, the club’s general counsel, is taking over as interim CEO, with Arnold remaining involved for the rest of 2023.
Petrochemicals billionaire Ratcliffe wants control of football operations when he takes a minority stake. The lifelong Manchester United fan was bidding against Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim after the club’s owners, the Glazer family, revealed last November that they were open to investment.
Much of Arnold’s time in charge has come amid uncertainty about United’s future but he said: “It has been an incredible privilege to serve this great football club for the past 16 years. Through highs and lows, the constant has been the dedication of our employees and fans. I would like to thank all of them for their loyalty and commitment, and wish everyone associated with the club the very best for the future.”
Executive co-chairman Joel Glazer added: “I would like to thank Richard for his outstanding service to Manchester United over the past 16 years, and wish him all the best for his future endeavours. We are fortunate to be able to call on the deep knowledge and experience of Patrick Stewart to provide interim stability and continuity as we embark on a search for a new permanent CEO.”
A close ally of former executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, Arnold was criticised for his attempts to bring Mason Greenwood back into the team.
Arnold, who was previously commercial director at Old Trafford, played a significant part in transforming United’s commercial and sponsorship revenue. In his time as chief executive, the club signed lucrative partnership deals with Adidas and Qualcomm.
After Woodward had become more involved in sporting decisions, he delegated more of the responsibility to football director John Murtough and helped build a structure inside the club. Director of football operations David Harrison, director of football negotiations Matt Hargreaves, head of women’s football Polly Bancroft and deputy football director Andy O’Boyle all joined the club during Arnold’s reign.
His tenure also included the appointment of Erik ten Hag and United’s first trophy in six years, in the 2023 Carabao Cup, plus greater investment in the women’s team.
Stewart, who has been at United for 17 years, already works closely with governing bodies such as the Premier League, the FA and Uefa.
He said: “Together with my leadership team colleagues, my job will be to ensure that the club’s foundations remain stable while we embrace changes that can make us stronger over the long term, on and off the pitch, and to support the search for a new permanent CEO.”
Further changes are expected at Old Trafford with Dave Brailsford, the Ineos Grenadiers cycling team boss, likely to play a major role. Brailsford has worked closely with Ineos chairman Ratcliffe both with Ineos Grenadiers and at Ligue 1 club OGC Nice.