The takeover of Chelsea could be complete by the end of April, with the preferred bid set to be presented to the government and Premier League for clearance on April 18; four parties on shortlist to succeed Roman Abramovich as Chelsea owner
Monday 28 March 2022 17:09, UK
The preferred bid for Chelsea will be presented to the government and the Premier League on April 18, meaning a change of ownership at the club could take place by the end of next month.
Sky News has learnt a letter sent to the four remaining contenders to buy Chelsea over the weekend indicates the government will be approached to issue a licence enabling the sale during the week of April 18.
The additional detail underlines the speed at which Raine Group, the merchant bank overseeing the sale process, is conducting one of the most hotly contested corporate auctions in sporting history.
Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, has publicly indicated it will examine a preferred bidder under its owners' and directors' test as speedily as possible, citing a previous club takeover that was approved within 10 days.
In recent weeks, Sky News has exclusively revealed a series of key details of the Chelsea sale process as Roman Abramovich relinquishes control of the club he has owned since 2003.
At the weekend, it emerged the quartet of bidders had been handed a deadline of April 11 - the day before the second leg of Chelsea's Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid.
They have been told by Raine they must commit at least £1bn to future investment in the club if they are to succeed in the battle to end Abramovich's tenure.
The additional funding must be made available for the Blues' Stamford Bridge stadium, playing squad and other areas of development.
Raine's insistence on the pool of capital for investment is likely to go some way to reassuring supporters its new owner will continue to back it with the kind of significant financial resource they have become accustomed to under the Russian-born businessman.
All four of the remaining bidders have significant experience in sports stadium infrastructure, a key consideration given Chelsea's long-standing dilemma about the expansion of Stamford Bridge, which has a capacity barely half that of Manchester United's Old Trafford home.
Between them, the final bidders either control or own stakes in US teams including the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Cubs, the LA Dodgers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Sacramento Kings.
Sir Martin Broughton, the former British Airways and Liverpool FC chairman, and Lord Coe, the former British Olympian turned sports administrator and businessman, are fronting a bid that has the financial firepower of Josh Harris and Dave Blitzer, two wealthy American financiers.
That consortium also includes Vivek Ranadive, an Indian-born entrepreneur, and a syndicate of other investors from around the world whose identities are expected to be confirmed in the coming days.
Another of the leading contenders is headed by Todd Boehly, the LA Dodgers part-owner, and includes Jonathan Goldstein, the London-based property developer, and Clearlake Capital, a US-based investment firm.
A third group comprises the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs, and the Citadel hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, with the US investment bank Lazard in talks to advise it.
The other remaining contender for Chelsea is a bid spearheaded by Stephen Pagliuca, an American private equity billionaire who owns the Boston Celtics and Atalanta in Italy's Serie A.
Sources have said that Raine would assess the four bids against a set of criteria including the level of equity and debt funding; price; future investment commitments; speed and certainty of execution; and the claims each party has to being an appropriate steward of a prestigious sporting brand.
Last week, the government agreed to further amend the licence allowing Chelsea to continue operating, with the club now able to resume selling tickets for away matches.
The proceeds are to be retained by the Premier League and earmarked for a Ukrainian war victims charity.
Chelsea can also now receive £30m from the club's parent company to ease cashflow constraints caused by the current crisis.
With the sale of Chelsea rumbling on, Kaveh Solhekol conducted an in-depth Q&A to explain what is going on at Stamford Bridge.