Friday, October 7, 2022

Chelsea takeover: Todd Boehly completes £4.25bn takeover as Roman Abramovich era ends

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Boehly’s simple refusal to countenance any distractions has proved central to the Connecticut billionaire’s successful Chelsea takeover.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

The Todd Boehly-led consortium have completed a £4.25bn takeover of Chelsea, ending Roman Abramovich’s 19-year ownership of the club.

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.

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 now the takeover is complete those restrictions will be lifted.

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 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.

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 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.

Roman’s parting message: It’s been an honour of a lifetime

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.”



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