It had very nearly gone bust after the economic crash of 2008 because, like many firms, its massive debts were suddenly unmanageable.
It asked the UK Government if it could defer a £350 million VAT payment for a year while it straightened itself out. When the Government refused, owner Jim Ratcliffe didn't waste time making threats.
He and his senior team might mostly have been north English grammar school boys, but they swiftly decamped from Hampshire to the site of the former Cadbury's European HQ in Rolle on the shores of Lake Geneva, paying the substantial cost of relocating 80 staff and their families at the same time.
An extreme marathon runner into his sixties, Ratcliffe's track record speaks for itself. Having started out as a chemical engineer at Exxon, by the late 1980s he was working as a dealmaker for US private equity group, Advent. After Advent took over BP's fine chemicals division, Ratcliffe became its chief executive before creating Ineos as a vehicle for the management buyout of his company's operation in Antwerp in Belgium in 1998. The deal for Ineos, an acronym of Inspec Ethylene Oxide and Specialities, was the start of a buying spree of unloved blue-chip businesses that saw Ratcliffe enacted a staggering 22 takeovers in 10 years.
This included buying the Grangemouth petrochemical refinery from BP in 2006 as part of a bigger £6 billion takeover. However, refineries have always played second fiddle to the main Ineos operation, which focuses on making essential chemicals for plastics and other oil-based products for everyone from the motor industry to pharmaceuticals. It is now the fourth-biggest chemicals company in the world, with 51 manufacturing facilities in 11 countries in North America, Europe and Asia.
The way the company handled its tete-a-tete with the UK Government is not dissimilar to its industrial relations. When it took on the Grangemouth workforce in 2008 over their final salary pension scheme, it resulted in a rare defeat for the company, which the union believed could have been avoided with more flexible negotiation. Others might say that Ineos' mistake was not recognising that the Forties North Sea pipeline, which is essential for the national oil supply, depends on Grangemouth staying open and puts the workers in a strong position.
Ineos has attempted to ensure in subsequent industrial negotiations that it won't be forced into an embarrassing climbdown again. When it wanted to get staff off the final salary scheme at its Newton Aycliffe plant in County Durham recently, staff were given little choice but to sign up. When the union balloted for strike action, Ineos transferred the workers to a Belgian sister company under TUPE employment rules that do not safeguard pension rights.
At the Runcorn plant in Cheshire, similar changes went through with less upheaval, though the employees were balloted after being refused a pay increase. They are now considering whether to accept a 2.5% offer.
Meanwhile, in the current Grangemouth dispute, the company seems determined to avoid a repeat of 2008. It has fought hard to win the media battle, with tactics including targeting union convener Stevie Deans, suing the union over alledgedly defamatory comments and claiming the plant is losing money. It is, in fact, profitable but is paying out more cash than it is taking in because of investment commitments. This is not normally referred to as a loss, however, since investment is a means of making profits in the future.
Alex Flynn of Unite said: "Industrial relations have always been difficult. They have always been confrontational. If you contrast relations with other big companies like JLR or GM, where there's very much a partnership approach, Ineos are like the Millwall of blue chip industry. Their attitude is - no-one likes us, we don't care."