Premier League football team Chelsea, which went up for sale days before the UK government imposed sanctions on its Russian owner over its Kremlin links, is set to be sold to a group led by a US billionaire for more than $3 billion, the highest amount ever paid for a sports team.
The team announced Friday night that terms have been reached to sell the team to a new ownership group led by Todd Boehly, an American who has made his billions through finance and investments and is co-owner of the Dodgers from Los Angeles. The group also includes the investment company Clearlake Capital; Mark Walter, the majority owner of the Dodgers; and Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss.
For nearly two decades, Chelsea have been owned by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oil oligarch who pumped billions into the team to transform it from a mid-table Premier League club into one of the best teams in the world. , winning several Premier League titles and Champions League titles with players like John Terry, Didier Drogba and N’Golo Kanté.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as surveillance of Russian oligarchs intensified, Abramovich announced he would sell the club, but before he could, his assets, including including Chelsea, have been frozen by the UK government. Chelsea have been granted a waiver by the government to continue operating more or less as normal, but the UK government has said Abramovich will not benefit from any sale of the club.
The team’s statement confirming the sale said it was due to close by the end of May and was still subject to ‘all necessary regulatory approvals’, a throwaway line most of the time, but one that could have huge ramifications here.
Abramovich said proceeds from the sale – according to Chelsea’s statement, Boehly and his group are paying £2.5billion, or just over $3billion – will go to a charitable foundation to support victims of the war in Ukraine.
But it was not made clear how it would actually work, whether recipients would include Russians or how British officials would ensure no money was given to Abramovich. The funds from the sale will be placed in an account that has been frozen by the government.
It is also unclear whether senior Chelsea executives, who were hired and largely left to run the club by Abramovich, will remain in place.
Boehly, 48, made his fortune in investment banking and venture capital, eventually founding Eldridge Industries in 2015 to control his portfolio. Boehly has significant minority stakes in the Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Sparks, but Chelsea will be the first sports team he will manage.
According to the statement announcing the sale, in addition to the $3 billion the new ownership group is paying for Chelsea, it will also invest more than $2 billion in the club, including investment in its stadiums, youth academy, her women’s team and her foundation.
The Boehly-led group were chosen by Chelsea as their preferred bidder last week, after a short and frantic sales process. Jim Ratcliffe, a British billionaire, made a late bid for the team, and Steve Pagliuca, owner of the Boston Celtics, and Josh Harris and David Blitzer, owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, also attempted to buy Chelsea.