• James Ratcliffe has an estimated net worth of $16.2 billion
  • The Ineos Group chairman founded the company in 1998
  • The chemical firm has an estimated annual revenue of $61 billion

Sir James Ratcliffe is a former chemical engineer and is the founder, chairman and majority owner of chemical company Ineos Group. His ventures in the chemical industry have earned him the title of the richest person in the U.K.

The businessman has an estimated net worth of $16.2 billion as of Aug. 2, 2021, placing him in 122nd place on the list of richest people worldwide. Ratcliffe is among the wealthiest people in the world primarily due to his London-based conglomerate that produces anything from synthetic oils and plastics to solvents used as ingredients in insulin and antibiotics, Forbes reported.

Ratcliffe’s company has become one of the most dominant chemical firms in the U.K. shale sector since entering the market in 2014. The company was the first to transport U.S. shale gas into Europe aboard its “Dragon Ships,” which are massive 600-foot gas carriers.

Since it was founded in 1998, Ineos Group has grown to have an estimated turnover of $80 billion. The company has 194 sites in 29 countries worldwide that generate a total annual revenue of $61 billion while employing 26,000 workers, as per the firm’s website. The group also has several individual businesses that branched into the automotive and sports industries.

Ratcliffe’s fascination with the chemical industry began during his childhood days when he observed several factory smokestacks from inside his bedroom. He developed his interest in science and engineering after his family moved to Yorkshire and began studying at Beverley Grammar School.

He was first affiliated with Courtaulds and Esso before being scouted by Advent International, a private equity group. Ratcliffe then began to search for investment opportunities until he started working together with former chemicals executive John Hollowood in 1992. The two joined forces to lead a buyout of a chemicals business from BP, a British multinational oil and gas company, according to HeadSpace Group.

Ratcliffe, despite having two sons at the time, mortgaged his house and put every last penny he owned into the deal. He said that moment was a “critical part” of his career path because it could have ended his whole life, including his career if it went sideways.

The entrepreneur founded Ineos in 1998, building the company from scratch, Celebrity Net Worth reported. Since then, Ratcliffe’s company steadily grew and expanded its reach globally.

The company’s chairman, Ratcliffe, was largely unknown outside business circles before being named the richest person in the U.K. This was primarily due to the billionaire’s preference to keep a low profile. He was previously described as “publicity shy” after becoming the richest man in the U.K. on May 13, 2018.

MONACO-RED CROSS-GALA-PEOPLE INEOS Group chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe arrives to attend the 71th annual Red Cross Gala, on July 26, 2019, in Monaco. - Created in 1948, the gala is an annual charity event held in Monaco by its Princely Family during the summer. Photo: Photo by VALERY HACHE / AFP / Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images