British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe offers $5.3 billion for Chelsea FC

The sale of Premier League soccer team Chelsea, triggered when the British government sanctioned its Russian owner for its Kremlin links...


The sale of Premier League soccer team Chelsea, triggered when the British government sanctioned its Russian owner for its Kremlin links, had already been the most peculiar team sale in the sport’s recent history. It suddenly became the most confusing on Friday, after one of Britain’s richest men entered the fray with a bold offer that upended a process that seemed to be coming to an end.

The offer put forward by Jim Ratcliffe, the billionaire CEO of chemical giant Ineos, was worth $5.3 billion, and would represent the highest price ever paid for a sports team. His arrival disrupted a sales process that had taken weeks to prepare; question the prospect of a quick and clean transfer of ownership; and inserted new drama into the future of one of the richest and most successful football clubs in the world.

At the end of the day, in fact, it was unclear if Ratcliffe’s offer would succeed, or if it was even welcome.

According to multiple reports Friday citing unnamed sources, a different bid led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly had been granted exclusive rights to negotiate his purchase of the team. The New York Times was unable to confirm this status, although at least one other ownership group confirmed they had been told it was out of the running.

Ratcliffe, meanwhile, had suddenly stepped out of the shadows. He presented his 11th hour offer as a ‘British offer, for a British club’ – a clear effort to differentiate him from three rival US suitors in the eyes of the UK government, which must give its blessing to any sale due to sanctions . .

The timing of Ratcliffe’s proposal and the highly public nature of how it was announced — through a public statement issued weeks after the bid deadline — may point to difficulties in gaining traction with the Raine Group, the New York-based consultancy managing the sale on behalf of Russian Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.

Ratcliffe’s belated intervention also raises the possibility of an ugly denouement to a process that from the start has been shrouded in confusion and chaos, all playing out against the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Abramovich’s ties to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.

Reigning European champions Chelsea were sent into a tailspin before the UK government even deemed Abramovich a close contact of Putin and imposed crippling restrictions on his fortunes as part of a wider package. of penalties. announcement against a group of Russian oligarchs. Abramovich, who has lavished more than $2 billion on Chelsea since buying the team in 2003, announced in March that he would sell the team amid scrutiny over its relationship with Russia. A sale became inevitable once Abramovich the assets have been frozen by the British government.

Ratcliffe’s offer includes a commitment to deposit more than $3 billion in a charitable foundation that Abramovich said he would form to accept the proceeds from the sale. (Abramovich is prohibited, under the sanctions currently in place, from receiving any money from the sale.) But Ratcliffe has also pledged to spend more than $2 billion to ensure the team maintains its place among world football’s elite.

“We are making this investment as fans of the beautiful game – not as a way to make a profit,” Ratcliffe said in a statement released by Ineos. “We do this with our main activities. The club is rooted in its community and supporters. And it is our intention to invest in Chelsea FC for this reason.

Under Abramovich, Chelsea became one of the biggest and most successful teams in world football. This has come at a high cost, however, with the team losing around $1 million a week since Abramovich, then an unknown Russian businessman, took over the club in 2003.

Ratcliffe, whose wealth might even exceed Abramovich’s fortune, suggested he would be willing to do the same. But it was unclear on Friday whether his offer would even get a hearing, or whether a different offer might win the approval of Abramovich, the British government and the Premier League first.

The government will have to issue a license, similar to the one that allowed Chelsea to continue operating despite the freeze order placed on Abramovich’s other assets and companies, as a condition of any sale. The Premier League must also approve all new owners.

As part of his bid, Ratcliffe said he would donate £2.5bn, or $3.1bn, to charity “to support victims of war”. This language was similar to that used by Abramovich when he announced he was putting Chelsea up for sale, but it is unclear how such a charity would work, or how UK officials would ensure that none of the profits returned. to Abramovich or entities he controls.

Ratcliffe has also pledged to invest a further $2.1 billion in Chelsea over the next 10 years, a figure which would also include the redevelopment of the club’s aging Stamford Bridge stadium, another of Abramovich’s stipulations for any new owner.

Chelsea would not be the first foray into sports investing, or even football, for Ratcliffe, a self-proclaimed fan of Chelsea’s Premier League rivals Manchester United since his school days. He already owns French professional football club OGC Nice, located near his home in Monaco, and FC Lausanne-Sport, a team in Switzerland. But buying Chelsea would be on a whole different scale for a man known for keeping a low profile.

“We believe London should have a club that reflects the stature of the city,” Ratcliffe said. One who holds the same esteem as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. We intend Chelsea to be that club.

His bold and seemingly unsolicited bid will surely have angered the group of American-backed bidders who have spent weeks engaged in an increasingly convoluted auction engineered by Raine co-founder Joe Ravitch. Deadlines for final offers were extended several times, then at the end of this week the three investment groups remaining in the process were asked to increase their offers by another $600 million.

The circumstances of the sale were already among the strangest ever seen in professional sports, a beauty pageant that brought together some of the richest people in the world, but also famous athletes and unknown figures who seemed to want to use the sale to elevate their own profile. .

The bid from Boehly, who sought to secure his own UK connections by teaming up with a slew of well-connected Britons including George Osborne, a former UK Treasury secretary, has worked diligently to secure Chelsea since Abramovich announced that he would separate from the club. Boehly and his partners navigated the tricky ground – avoiding mistakes that proved costly for other contenders – to become the favorite this week.

Boehly’s group had been challenged by a sprawling consortium funded by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, members of the ownership group that controls the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, who recently added Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton and tennis star Serena Williams. to their ranks.

The third runner-up was a group led by NBA Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca. Pagliuca’s consortium included Larry Tenenbaum, the president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, owner of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs and Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC. But he confirmed on Friday that he had been told his candidacy was no longer being considered.

For Chelsea players, staff and fans, a sale can’t come soon enough. The club has been working under very unusual financial constraints since the announcement of the sanctions against Abramovich. The special government license that allows the team to operate has left the club with up to 10,000 unsold tickets for its home games, and has forced the team to limit travel budgets and close online stores and team physical.

“It would be ideal” for the situation to be resolved as soon as possible, admitted Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel after a victory on Sunday. “But you can’t pull the grass, so it grows faster.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe offers $5.3 billion for Chelsea FC
British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe offers $5.3 billion for Chelsea FC
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