Deal brings an end to Roman Abramovich's 19-year ownership of Chelsea, in which the club won 21 trophies including five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues; Todd Boehly-led consortium have committed £4.25bn to purchase the club - a record for a sports team
Tuesday 31 May 2022 00:00, UK
The Todd Boehly-led consortium have completed a £4.25bn takeover of Chelsea, ending Roman Abramovich's 19-year ownership of the club.
The new owners said they are "committed to investing in key areas that will extend and enhance Chelsea's competitiveness, including the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, further investment in the academy, the women's team and Kingsmeadow stadium," adding they will "continue the important work of the Chelsea Foundation".
After months of negotiations, the deal was finally approved on Wednesday morning when the government received legal guarantees that Roman Abramovich - who has had his UK assets frozen - would 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.
Boehly set out his consortium's vision in a statement on Chelsea's website, saying: "We are honoured to become the new custodians of Chelsea Football Club. We're all in - 100 per cent - every minute of every match.
"Our vision as owners is clear: We want to make the fans proud. Along with our commitment to developing the youth squad and acquiring the best talent, our plan of action is to invest in the club for the long-term and build on Chelsea's remarkable history of success."
Boehly added: "I personally want to thank ministers and officials in the British government, and the Premier League, for all their work in making this happen."
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.
Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Boehly becomes Chelsea's controlling owner, even though California investment firm Clearlake Capital have assumed the majority shareholding. A statement from the new owners said Boehly and Clearlake will "share joint control and equal governance of the club", while "Boehly will serve as chairman of the holding company".
It is reported the new owners plan to invest £1.75bn into the club, placing the overall takeover value at £4.25bn.
A Chelsea statement said the club "received more than 250 enquiries from proposed purchasers, held detailed discussions with more than 100 individuals and entities, and entered into 32 confidentiality agreements." The Blues said 12 of the bids were seen as credible.
Since Abramovich was sanctioned, Chelsea had been unable to sell or sign players or offer new contracts.
However, Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister, tweeted following the takeover: "The sale of Chelsea has now been completed - a great relief to Chelsea fans around the country and indeed the world.
"The takeover means that the club is no longer subject to the sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich, and can look ahead to a secure long-term future."
Football finance expert Kieran Maguire told Sky Sports:
"I think it'll be a slightly different Chelsea to the one we've become familiar with under Roman Abramovich. He did run the club as a trophy asset and Chelsea lost over £900,000 a week throughout his 19-year reign.
"I suspect the Toddy Boehly group, especially as they're backed by Clearlake Capital, will take a more data analytical and more Moneyball approach in terms of player recruitment. We won't necessarily see the same merry-go-rounds we've seen in terms of coach appointments.
"Abramovich spent nearly £100m on redundancy payments to a series of managers and the new owners will want to have more continuity. They would see the success of Liverpool under Fenway Sports Group and will want to replicate that."
Boehly's simple refusal to countenance any distractions has proved central to the Connecticut billionaire's successful Chelsea takeover.
Some 85 days after 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.
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.
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.
In recent weeks Boehly has been able to attend matches at Stamford Bridge, both in the directors' box while also 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.
On Saturday, Roman Abramovich wrote a farewell message to Chelsea fans after 19 years at the club.
His statement read: "It has been nearly three months since I announced my intention to sell Chelsea FC. During this time, the team have worked hard to find the right custodian for Chelsea FC that would be best positioned to successfully lead the club into its next chapter.
"The ownership of this club comes with great responsibility. Since I came to Chelsea nearly twenty years ago, I have witnessed first-hand what this club can achieve. My goal has been to ensure that the next owner has a mindset that will enable success for the Men's and Women's team, as well as the will and drive to continue developing other key aspects of the club, such as the Academy and the vital work of Chelsea Foundation.
"I am pleased this search has now come to a successful conclusion. As I hand over Chelsea to its new custodians, I would like to wish them the best of success, both on and off the pitch.
"It has been an honour of a lifetime to be a part of this club - I would like to thank all the Club's past and current players, staff, and of course fans for these incredible years.
"I am proud that as a result of our joint successes, millions of people will now benefit from the new charitable foundation which is being established. This is the legacy which we have created together."
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 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.
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