by Kieran CANNING
Chelsea confirmed on Saturday that a consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly has won the battle to buy the Premier League club in a £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) deal.
Owner Roman Abramovich put Chelsea on the market in early March, just days before he was sanctioned by the British government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
After a lengthy bidding process involving several groups, Boehly and his fellow investors were picked by Raine Group, the New York bank overseeing the sale.
Boehly’s consortium includes a fellow co-owner of the Dodgers baseball franchise, Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss and US investment firm Clearlake Capital.
“Chelsea Football Club can confirm that terms have been agreed for a new ownership group, led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjoerg Wyss, to acquire the club,” they said in a statement.
“Of the total investment being made, £2.5 billion will be applied to purchase the shares in the club and such proceeds will be deposited into a frozen UK bank account with the intention to donate 100 percent to charitable causes as confirmed by Roman Abramovich.
“UK government approval will be required for the proceeds to be transferred from the frozen UK bank account.”
In addition, the new owners will commit £1.75 billion in further investment “for the benefit of the club”, Chelsea said.
The total value of the deal smashes the previous record for the sale of a sports team — $2.4 billion for the New York Mets baseball franchise in 2020.
Chelsea’s 42,000-capacity Stamford Bridge home is in need of major redevelopment to match the stadium size and income streams enjoyed by their rivals.
But Boehly has a track record of delivering both stadium improvement and sporting success with the Dodgers.
Thanks to heavy investment in players, the Dodgers have made the MLB (Major League Baseball) playoffs every season for the past nine years and won their first World Series for 32 years in 2020.
Boehly’s consortium still needs to satisfy the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test, but Chelsea said they expect the sale to be completed by the end of the month.
Boehly is expected to attend the Premier League clash with Wolves at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said it welcomed the club’s announcement.
“We will continue to hold close discussions with the prospective owners,” it said in a statement. “We are optimistic about the future of #CFC. We hope that the sale is completed swiftly.”
– Ukraine war –
Chelsea have been forced to operate under a special licence from the UK government since Abramovich, who bought the club in 2003, was sanctioned.
The billionaire, described by the UK government as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, has vowed to write off the club’s £1.5 billion debt owed to him and said all proceeds of the sale would go to victims of the war in Ukraine.
There had been fears over the future of Chelsea if a sale was not finalised before the licence runs out on May 31 — ministers warning the club was on “borrowed time.”
Under the terms of the licence, Chelsea were unable to offer new contracts to existing players or sign players from other clubs.
The sale of the European champions brings the curtain down on 19 years of nearly unbroken success under the 55-year-old Abramovich, who has overseen five Premier League titles and two Champions League triumphs.
After initially embarking on a winning run following Abramovich’s decision to sell the club, Chelsea’s form has dipped recently.
They suffered a painful Champions League quarter-final defeat to Real Madrid but should still seal a place in next season’s Champions League by finishing in the Premier League’s top four.
And they can still add a 20th major trophy of the Abramovich era when they face Liverpool in next week’s FA Cup final. ( Agence France-Presse/AFP)