A consortium led by Todd Boehly has been put forward as the preferred next owner of Chelsea, with the American businessman set to enter exclusive talks to replace sanctioned oligarch Roman Abramovich.
Following an extensive and high-profile bidding process lasting almost two months, the Boehly group has fought off competition from two other shortlisted consortiums, led by former British Airways chairman Sir Martin Broughton and Atalanta co-owner Steve Pagliuca, plus a last-ditch offer from INEOS owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who announced a bid at 2pm on Friday. Sources close to Pagliuca were the first to confirm that they were out of the race.
The Boehly group will now engage in talks with the club around finalising a deal. Reports in America suggested that they will be given a week to agree on final details.
They will also await an update from the UK government following an application to have the terms of the club’s special operating licence amended that would allow the sale to proceed. That application, submitted via the New York-based merchant bank Raine, is expected to be straightforward once sufficient evidence has been provided that Abramovich, who put the club up for sale on March 2 before being sanctioned owing to his relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, will not receive any money from a transaction expected to cost a record-breaking £3bn.
From there the prospective buyers will need to agree final details with the club’s board and go through the Premier League ’s owners’ and directors’ test, a process the league’s chief executive Richard Masters previously said could take ten days. The league has already being carrying out preliminary checks.
The Boehly group had been considered favourites from the outset. Business partner Hansjorg Wyss went public about the potential of a takeover to Swiss media 24 hours before Abramovich had confirmed his intention to sell the club and they subsequently added several experienced advisory figures, including Tory peer Daniel Finkelstein and former chancellor George Osborne.
One notable advantage the group had over the other two shortlisted parties was the absence of conflict of interests. The Broughton-led consortium counted Crystal Palace part-owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer as its primary financial backers. They would have had to divest their stakes in the South London club to satisfy the Premier League regulations. Similar applied to Pagliuca having to reduce his 47% stake in Atalanta to satisfy UEFA conditions.
It is hoped that the takeover will be completed before the end of the domestic campaign but previous deadlines have been pushed back with all parties involved in the sale process aware of the complexities around such a deal. The government licence presently expires at the end of May, although that could be extended depending on the status of the takeover.