The money is counted, the management meetings are over and they have seen Chelsea play on the pitch. Now, as we reach the deadline for final offers, the four consortia bidding to buy the Premier League club – for around £2.5billion – can’t do more.
What unites them is billionaire wealth, experience running American sports teams and a desire to take West London to a new level.
But the differences between them will be key in deciding who replaces Roman Abramovich as owner, with a preferred bidder set to be finalized next week before the Premier League and government approve the sale of sports’ most expensive team. the story.
It has already been described as one of the most competitive, with billionaires teaming up with other billionaires to fight for a top spot in the Premier League and European football hierarchy.
So who is best positioned to succeed? It’s hard to predict a response that lies in the hands of Chelsea’s board, including a sanctioned Abramovich, chairman Bruce Buck and director Eugene Tenenbaum.
The favourite ?
Auction leader: Todd Boehly – American billionaire, owner of the Eldridge Investment Company and co-owner of the MLB franchise the LA Dodgers.
Finances boosted by: Clearlake Capital (£45bn in assets), LA Dodgers principal owner Mark Walter (£3.3bn), Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss (£3.9bn) and CEO Jonathan Goldstein Cain International (£7.7 billion in assets).
Additional expertise: US public relations executive Barbara Charone – who previously worked with Madonna – and British journalist and conservative peer Daniel Finkelstein are part of the offer. Both are Chelsea fans.
Advantages: Boehly’s bid was relatively free of controversy and has plenty of financial and sporting savvy to back it up. And Boehly has already shown interest in buying Chelsea, so he already knows the club. He also reportedly offered fans a so-called ‘preferred share’, meaning no major decision on the future of Stamford Bridge or the team would be made without consulting the supporters.
The inconvenients: There were no major problems for Boehly’s offer, which was slow in coming and increased its investment capacity as maturities approached. But Goldstein’s status as a Tottenham fan was underscored by fellow countryman Nick Candy, who may have spoken on behalf of many supporters when he said he “doesn’t want a Spurs fan in life as part of Chelsea’s future ownership”.
What else? Boehly’s company Eldridge has also invested in Epic, which owns the Fortnite video game – and the billionaire explained how the game has hosted tournaments watched by 10 million people. Could this mean that it is well placed, alongside other American owners, to consider a revolution in the broadcasting of Premier League matches?
The controversial offer
Auction leader: Ricketts family – owners of the MLB franchise the Chicago Cubs.
Finances boosted by: Billionaire hedge fund entrepreneur Ken Griffin (£20bn), Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (£15bn).
Additional expertise: After questions about their approach to inclusion and diversity, the family said they would appoint Lord Bilimoria – Chelsea fan and chairman of Change the Race Ratio – to the board. He founded Cobra Beer from a London apartment in 1989.
Advantages: The Ricketts family already owns a great American sports team, leading the Cubs to their first World Series win in 108 years. They have also spent nearly $1bn (£750m) upgrading Wrigley Field so it has more shops and connections to the local community. Stamford Bridge, with a capacity of 42,000, needs a similar expansion if Chelsea are to match their Premier League rivals. Their offering is entirely funded by equity rather than debt, and siblings Tom and Laura Ricketts have spent a lot of time speaking to fan groups, though much of their PR campaign has attempted to allay concerns over past comments by their father Joe, who is worth £3.5billion.
The inconvenients: Joe Ricketts’ anti-Muslim remarks, which surfaced in 2019, were extremely damaging. He has since apologized and is not part of Chelsea’s bid to buy, but the campaign was not helped when Paul Canoville – the club’s first black player – voiced his disapproval, which led trending #notoricketts on social media and a protest ahead of the defeat by Brentford.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust (CST) said they still had concerns even after meeting the family, and some fans were also worried about the way the Cubs were run. Laura Ricketts sat down with LGBT groups and fans to explain the family’s approach to diversity and inclusion, saying, “We strive to be champions on and off the court.”
What else? The political connections of the Ricketts family have also been the subject of debate. Both Joe and Todd are staunch Republicans and supported former President Donald Trump, while Laura is a Democrat. Tom, who is the Cubs’ president, is said to be less political and says his leadership style is to “help set the goals, give the direction and then let the people do their thing.” He told Salvi Chicago, “The difference between running a traditional business and running a sports franchise is just the profile. You want to make sure everything’s okay because everyone’s watching.”
The British-led bid
Auction leader: Sir Martin Broughton – former chairman of Liverpool and British Airways
Finances boosted by: Josh Harris (£4.2bn) and David Blitzer, co-owners of Crystal Palace FC and NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers. Investment banker Michael Klein is also on board, but Broughton says investments have come “from all over the world”.
Additional expertise: Lord Coe, Chelsea fan and chairman of World Athletics
Advantages: Broughton has experience managing a Premier League side, albeit for a short time, and helped negotiate the sale of Liverpool to Fenway Sports Group 12 years ago. He is aided by the presence of Lord Coe, whose connections to Chelsea run deep. The two are lifelong fans, and Broughton said he was committed to “a top-notch governance model with fans at the heart of decision-making”, which would include plans for the development of Stamford Bridge. .
The inconvenients: Harris and Blitzer’s investment in Crystal Palace could cause problems as Premier League rules state that a person cannot acquire a “significant interest” – defined as 10% or more – if they already partly own a another club. Of course, if that stake is sold, or if Harris and Blitzer resign from the Palace board, the takeover can go ahead, but the question is whether that would lead to delays in a sale, everyone wants proceed quickly. It is understood that a plan is in place should their Chelsea bid be successful, but how far the former Eagles owners would fall to Chelsea is another question.
What else? Harris and Blitzer have numerous investments through their Sports & Entertainment company, including the NHL ice hockey team, the New Jersey Devils. Harris, who lives in Miami, also owns a minority stake in NFL team the Pittsburgh Steelers. Blitzer, who is based in New York, is global head of tactical opportunities at investment firm Blackstone.
The discreet bidder
Auction leader: Stephen Pagliuca – co-owner of the Boston Celtics, Atalanta and Bain Capital, which has £92bn in assets.
Finances boosted by: Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (£9bn), venture capitalist Jim Breyer (£1.6bn).
Additional expertise: Pagliuca will sit alongside NBA President Larry Tanenbaum, co-owner of several Canadian sports teams and founder of a developer, who could prove useful at Stamford Bridge. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger and Peter Guber – co-owner of the Golden State Warriors and LA Dodgers – are also on board.
Advantages: Pagliuca has plenty of sporting and financial capital, although news of his interest in Chelsea only emerged after the first tender deadline on March 25. The 67-year-old broke his silence on Tuesday to say that “his philosophy has always been to operate discreetly” before outlining his intentions. He hit all the right notes on making Chelsea ‘habitual winners’, ‘maintaining club traditions’ including avoiding a European Super League, and saying ‘Chelsea should be the pride of London for his achievements on and off the pitch”. Pagliuca has the endorsement of the True Blue consortium, which involves former Blues captain John Terry and is targeting a 10% stake in any new ownership.
The inconvenients: Politician Lord Hain has expressed disapproval of Bain & Company’s links to corruption allegations in South Africa, but Pagliuca’s camp has said it is a separate entity from Bain Capital, which does not in no way part of Chelsea’s offer. Pagliuca’s 55% stake in Serie A side Atalanta could cause problems for UEFA, whose rules state that ‘no natural or legal person may control or influence more than one club’ in its competitions . But the billionaire appeared to suggest he would take steps to “comply with respective requirements and regulations”.
What else? Pagliuca has previously said a European Super League “makes sense on paper” for clubs which, unlike those in America, face “risks” of relegation and a lack of wage controls. He also told Bloomberg in 2020 that one way to mitigate those risks was to “manage those clubs closely.” In his statement this week, however, he changed course, saying the Women’s Super League was “the only Super League we intend to compete in”.