Two bids led by US billionaire lead £3bn race to buy Chelsea FC

Two bids backed by US billionaires have become favorites to win the £3billion race to buy Chelsea Football Club, which is racing to replace its sanctioned Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich.

According to people familiar with the matter.

On Thursday, other bidders, including Saudi Media Group, were told they had been eliminated from the process, they said.

The unique circumstances of Chelsea’s sale have sparked strong interest in what is considered a rare trophy in football’s most lucrative domestic division, the Premier League. The bidding process for the west London, England-based club is handled by US investment bank Raine Group.

Bids are assessed against a complex set of criteria, including how much of the bid will be donated to charity and the amount of funds available to invest in Chelsea and its stadium, those with knowledge of the matter said. . The bidders’ track record of leading asset management is also being assessed.

The forerunners of the competition sought to differentiate their offerings not only in terms of prize money but also by collaborating with members of the British establishment.

Boehly’s group has the backing of Daniel Finkelstein, a Conservative party peer and columnist for The Times newspaper in London, while Harris and Blitzer have turned to city great Sir Martin Broughton and World Chairman Sebastian Coe. Athletics.

California-based investment firm Clearlake Capital, which manages more than $60 billion in assets, is providing financial backing for Boehly’s bid. The Boehly group works with Goldman Sachs.

Saudi Media Group’s offer was uncompetitive and relied heavily on debt financing, an unattractive prospect for the club, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Bids from British property developer Nick Candy, who was working on behalf of a consortium of investors, and London-based investment manager Centricus are also not expected to progress.

An offer from the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, has been weakened by scrutiny of leaked correspondence in which the family patriarch wrote that Muslims are the “enemy”. Ricketts’ offer has the backing of US hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin.

The Ricketts family have stressed that ‘racism and Islamophobia have no place in our society’ after Chelsea fans slammed Joe Ricketts, founder of brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, for comments in emails disclosed.

Chelsea have won all of football’s top honors under Roman Abramovich © AP

The level of interest in Chelsea underscores the growth of the Premier League, European football’s top division in terms of revenue and global reach, in America, where the value of its broadcast rights soared in the latest call for offers.

Chelsea won all of football’s top honors under Abramovich, who bought the club in 2003 and shattered Manchester United’s domestic dominance by spending millions buying star players and paying their multimillion-pound salaries.

The club won the UEFA Champions League last season, Europe’s most prestigious club tournament, and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Abramovich sells the club following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which forced the sports industry to confront its links with Russia and the oligarchs accused of being close to the Kremlin.

However, the UK’s decision to impose sanctions on Abramovich and freeze his assets has added complexity to the sale, which will require special approval from the UK government.

The ministers are adamant that Abramovich, who has pledged to donate net proceeds from any sales to charity, should not benefit from the deal. He also said he planned to write off the £1.5billion debt owed to him by Fordstam, the entity through which he owns Chelsea.

Chelsea’s revenue totaled £434m in the financial year ending June 2021, up from £407m a year earlier, bolstered by the Champions League win.

Despite the sanctions, Chelsea are able to play games thanks to a license granted to the club to avoid wider disruption to the Premier League, one of the UK’s biggest cultural exports.

The government amended Chelsea’s license on Wednesday to allow Abramovich’s Fordstam entity to inject up to £30m into the club to “address any cash or liquidity issues”.

If their bid group is successful, Harris and Blitzer will likely be forced to sell their minority stake in Crystal Palace, a rival Premier League club based in south London.

Additional report by Antoine Gara

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