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Chelsea takeover: Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn bid approved by government as Roman Abramovich era set to end
- Updated: May 25, 2022
Deal is set to bring an end to Roman Abramovich’s 19-year ownership of Chelsea, in which the club has won 21 trophies including five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues
The government has approved the £4.25bn Todd Boehly-led consortium takeover of Chelsea.
After months of negotiations, the deal has finally been approved after the government received legal guarantees that Roman Abramovich – who has had his UK assets frozen – will not benefit from the sale.
The proceeds from the sale will be frozen in a UK bank account until the government has received further assurances that the money will solely go to support humanitarian causes in Ukraine.
Russian-Israeli billionaire Abramovich put Chelsea, which he purchased in 2003, up for sale on March 2, a week after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The takeover ends his 19-year ownership of the club and will see Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Boehly become Chelsea’s controlling owner, even though California investment firm Clearlake Capital will assume the majority shareholding. It is reported the new owners plan to invest £1.75bn into the club, placing the overall takeover value at £4.25bn.
Since Abramovich was sanctioned, Chelsea have been unable to sell or sign players or offer new contracts but once the takeover is complete those restrictions will be lifted.
A government statement said: “The steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community. We have been in discussions with relevant international partners for necessary licences required and we thank them for all their cooperation.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said he was “confident of a bright future” for Chelsea under the club’s new owners.
‘All stumbling blocks have been overcome’
Sky Sports senior reporter Geraint Hughes:
“It was a protracted and complex process getting the licence. It’s significant because this has never happened before – a government has never had to intervene and effectively broker the sale of a football club.
“We’re living in extraordinary times given the war in Ukraine and the fact that a sanctioned individual in Roman Abramovich was the owner of Chelsea.
“Chelsea fans will need patience but it’s so close now. All the major stumbling blocks have been achieved now. A lot of people will be breathing a huge sigh of relief at Chelsea and in the government.
“This was not just a straight transaction… this involved multiple parts from a Consortium that wanted to buy the club, then you have the British government, the Portuguese and the European Commission.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented but Chelsea fans just want to know how they can keep pace with Manchester City and Liverpool. The light is almost at the end of the tunnel.”
How Boehly emerged as leading bidder
Boehly’s simple refusal to countenance any distractions has proved central to the Connecticut billionaire’s successful Chelsea takeover.
Some 85 days after Roman Abramovich officially put the Blues up for sale, the Boehly consortium has finally fended off all challengers to take the Stamford Bridge helm.
Where rival bidders were either forced to fight fires or found themselves veering off course, Boehly never allowed his steely focus to waver.
The laser targeting of both Eldridge Industries co-founder Boehly and Clearlake Capital co-founder Behdad Eghbali has formed the winning consortium’s bedrock.
Boehly and Eghbali enjoy a firm friendship and close working relationship, and both men are characterised as humble and low key – at odds with their soaring status in financial circles.
That calm and affable yet focused and professional approach won favour with those carrying out the Chelsea sale, through an often fraught and intense process.
Boehly and Eghbali were able to prove the robustness of their consortium to both Chelsea chiefs and the top brass at Raine Group, the New York merchant bank overseeing the sale.
California investment giants Clearlake will now assume Chelsea’s majority shareholding, even though Boehly will become controlling owner.
Only the strength of the relationship between Boehly and both Eghbali and Clearlake has allowed the set-up to be given the green light by the sellers.
Boehly crucially carried out due diligence on a Chelsea bid in 2019, affording a sizeable advantage amid a majorly expedited sale process.
Chelsea’s sale could have been expected to take some nine months under normal time pressure. Instead, the Blues and Raine raced through a purchase agreement in less than 10 weeks, with the whole sale including Government ratification complete in just three months.
Raine and Chelsea deserve genuine credit for pulling off a deal of such complexity and magnitude so quickly, with executives understood to have worked 20-plus hour days throughout the process.
How the takeover unfolded…
Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale officially on March 2, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The 55-year-old was then sanctioned by the UK Government on March 10, with Downing Street claiming to have proven his links to Vladimir Putin.
From profile-hunters like Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak to more credible figures like British property tycoon Nick Candy and beyond, Chelsea’s sale carried an unprecedented public edge.
Beyond the court of public opinion generated by Government scrutiny however, in the end, the telling negotiations remained behind closed doors.
Eventually, four bidders were taken through to a final shortlist: Boehly, the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family, Sir Martin Broughton and the Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca.
The Ricketts-led bid was beset by image issues from the off, with family patriarch Joe Ricketts’ historic leaked emails where he branded Muslims “my enemy” resurfacing and causing major concerns.
Bid leaders Tom and Laura Ricketts were able to prove their commitments to diversity and inclusion however, and with Ken Griffin’s major investment the offering started to appear compelling.
Just when the other shortlisted bidders began to fret on the Ricketts-led submission however, the consortium withdrew.
That shock April 15 news generated a sigh of Easter weekend relief among the other bidders, and paved the way for Boehly’s success.
Raine chiefs were then all geared up to confirm Boehly as the preferred bidder on Friday, April 29, when Britain’s richest man threw a last-minute spanner into the works.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe submitted a bid outside of the official process in the hope of gazumping the other competing consortiums.
The submission was taken seriously, but after several days of further frenzied activity, Boehly finally secured that preferred bidder status.
Completing the purchase agreement in the early hours of Saturday, May 7 ensured Chelsea’s Abramovich era would soon be over.
And now, after 19 years, 21 men’s trophies and a club transformed amid changing the face of English football forever, the Russian-Israeli tycoon’s Blues ownership is no more.
Will Boehly be a Stamford Bridge regular?
In recent weeks Boehly has been able to attend matches at Stamford Bridge, both in the directors’ box and also while mixing in the stands among supporters.
The casually dressed and laid-back new Blues supremo was understood to have been taken aback by the regularity of supporter recognition, in contrast to his lower profile at Dodgers games in the US.
The new Chelsea chief’s financial expertise leads to a natural fascination with the impact of data in sport. Chelsea can expect Boehly to seek every possible analytical edge, especially when it comes to recruitment.
Some top football financial analysts believe leading Premier League clubs could be worth north of £10bn inside 10 years, and such projections have left Boehly and his consortium satisfied with the value in their record sports franchise purchase.
Analysis: How will the new Chelsea act in market?
he Athletic’s Chelsea correspondent Liam Twomey on Paper Talk:
“Getting the green light from the government was the biggest hurdle remaining and certainly the one that was causing the most concern among Chelsea supporters given the distrust between the government and Abramovich after everything that’s happened in the last couple of months.
“To get the official green light will be a big relief to Chelsea fans and to Boehly and his other investors Clearlake Capital because now they can actually get to work.
“There’s going to be a change in strategy at Chelsea from now on. The kind of decisions that were justifiable when you were owned by a Russian billionaire who was prepared to cover any losses are not the same as when you’re owned by a California-based private-equity firm which is what Clearlake Capital are and they will be the majority owners.
“Chelsea will be run more like a business and it’ll be interesting to see how the reported £200m on transfers will be spent. Chelsea like Declan Rice and West Ham have said he could cost up to £150m. Is that the kind of deal the new Chelsea do?
“The suggestions are that they will look to be smarter and try to be more efficient with fewer mistakes like the Romelu Lukaku and Kepa Arrizabalaga deals where they’re sitting on the wage bill haemorrhaging money.”
Timeline of Abramovich era
Abramovich bought the Premier League club from Ken Bates in 2003 for a reported £140m. The Russian arrived at Chelsea in June and went on a £100m spending spree in his first transfer window, bringing in the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Hernan Crespo and Claude Makelele.
Claudio Ranieri’s side finished second behind champions Arsenal in the Premier League and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, before the Italian manager was dismissed at the end of the campaign.
Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho took over at Stamford Bridge after winning the Champions League with Porto in May and guided Chelsea to Premier League and League Cup success in his first season at the helm.
Chelsea retained the league title the following season, and added another League Cup as well as an FA Cup to their collection in 2006/07 but relinquished the league crown to Manchester United.
The Champions League remained out of Mourinho’s grasp during his time in London and he left the club in September 2007.
Avram Grant, who was appointed Chelsea’s director of football in July, succeeded Mourinho and took Chelsea to their first Champions League final in 2008 but departed after a trophy-less campaign.
Luiz Felipe Scolari arrived in London as a World Cup-winning manager with a glittering CV but was sacked after only seven months in charge, with Chelsea sitting fourth in the Premier League and in contention for the Champions League.
Russia coach Guus Hiddink was named interim manager until the end of the season as Chelsea went on to win the FA Cup and secured Champions League football with a third-placed finish in the Premier League.
Carlo Ancelotti was next through the door at Chelsea and led them to their only Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season in charge.
The Italian coach was unable to repeat his achievements the following campaign, however, as Chelsea finished second in the league and Ancelotti was sacked after a trophy-less 2010/11 season.
Andre Villas-Boas replaced Ancelotti after winning four trophies in the previous season with Porto but the Portuguese coach was dismissed nine months into the job, winning less than half of his games in charge.
Villas-Boas’ assistant and club legend Roberto Di Matteo was brought in to see out the rest of the 2011/12 season and led Chelsea to their first Champions League triumph when they beat Bayern Munich at their home stadium, the Allianz Arena.
Di Matteo was then named permanent manager but was sacked in November after Chelsea were eliminated from the Champions League and replaced by former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez for the remainder of the campaign.
The move was unpopular with supporters but he delivered success in the form of Chelsea’s first Europa League trophy.
Mourinho returned to Chelsea for a two-and-a-half-year spell and won the club’s first Premier League title since 2010 in his second season in charge.
But a poor run of form in the 2015/16 season saw him dismissed in December after he lost the dressing room.
Hiddink stepped in again for a second time but could not salvage the season as Chelsea finished 10th in the league — their lowest placing in the Abramovich era.
Italy coach Antonio Conte arrived and he had an immediate impact at Chelsea, winning the Premier League title in his first season. He led the club to FA Cup success in 2017/18 but was sacked after Chelsea failed to finish in the top four.
Compatriot Maurizio Sarri took over and enjoyed a successful year in charge at Stamford Bridge, winning the Europa League and finishing third in the league, but left for Serie A side Juventus at the end of the season.
Club legend Frank Lampard returned to London and guided Chelsea, operating under a transfer embargo, to a fourth-placed finish in the league.
Chelsea spent £200m in the transfer window before the 2020/21 campaign as they looked to bridge the gap to Liverpool and Manchester City but Lampard was sacked in January with the team languishing in ninth.
After Thomas Tuchel took over, Chelsea edged out a top-four finish and won their second Champions League title in May 2021. Tuchel’s first full season included UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup success, while they are currently third in the league.
Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before sanctions were imposed on the oligarch by the British government, effectively giving it control of the club.
The club is sold in May to a consortium led by Todd Boehly for £4.25bn.
Source: Sky Sports