The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss was first to go public regarding Roman Abramovich’s desire to sell and to declare an interest in buying the club. He has teamed up with investors including Todd Boehly, an American who part-owns baseball’s LA Dodgers, and Jonathan Goldstein, a British businessman who is the CEO of Cain International and a Tottenham fan. They submitted an offer between £2bn and £2.5bn some days ago and have been confident of winning the race to buy Chelsea but the picture has been complicated by the emergence of new bidders. Boehly, rebuffed by Abramovich when he made an offer for the club in 2019, has added the Times columnist and Conservative peer Daniel Finkelstein and the PR executive Barbara Charone – both Chelsea season-ticket holders – to the consortium.
Ricketts family and Ken Griffin
The Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, have joined forces with the hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin, who is valued by Forbes at $26.5bn (£20.2bn). Griffin is the founder and CEO of Citadel Asset Management but is operating in a private capacity. The Ricketts family, who announced on Wednesday they would bid on Friday, first made an attempt to buy Chelsea in 2018. They believe their success in winning the World Series with the Cubs in 2016 and major redevelopment of the team’s historic Wrigley Field show they would be worthy owners of the Premier League club, whose Stamford Bridge stadium could be renovated.
Martin Broughton, a former chairman of British Airways, is planning to front a bid and has support from Sebastian Coe and financial muscle from Creative Artists Agency, a US company whose portfolio includes the football agency Base, and Evolution Media Capital. Broughton, a Chelsea fan, was briefly chairman of Liverpool in 2010 and there would be a seat on the board for Coe, the World Athletics president and a fellow Chelsea supporter, if this offer succeeds. Coe is a former Conservative MP and worked closely with Boris Johnson over the 2012 London Olympics, when the prime minister was the mayor of London. The UK government must approve Chelsea’s sale after imposing sanctions on Abramovich, although the process is being overseen by the US bank Raine.
The owner of the NFL’s New York Jets since January 2000 has strong interest in Chelsea and a connection with London. He was appointed as the US ambassador to the UK by Donald Trump in 2017 and soon denied he had suggested his country could buy the NHS. Johnson is said to have developed, or deepened, his love for football, and Chelsea in particular, during his time in that post. He is the billionaire heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. The Jets have not made the play-offs in 11 years, the longest current drought in the NFL.
Nick Candy and partners
The British property tycoon is another Chelsea fan hoping to own the club. He has acknowledged the need to team up with other investors and sources have said he has been approached by several and has the funds in place to bid. Candy this week denied he could team up with Boehly, Wyss and Goldstein, with a spokesperson saying Candy did “not want a lifelong Spurs fan as part of the future ownership of Chelsea”. Candy, a Conservative party donor and property developer, has said he would put a fan on the board and his proposals include plans for an expensive redevelopment of Stamford Bridge. He has enlisted the sports advisory and capital solutions firm Tifosy, co-founded by the former Chelsea player and manager Gianluca Vialli.
Saudi Media Company
Saudi Media is described on the website of its parent company, Engineer Holding Group, as “a media representation as well as a sports and event marketing company”. Its bid is being fronted by Mohamed Alkhereiji, another Chelsea fan, who is the CEO at Engineer, founded by his father, Abdulelah. Sources have said, in response to questions regarding a possible Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test, that Saudi Media has no direct links to the Saudi government. This week, the UK’s sports minister, Nigel Huddlestone, said: “Saudi Arabia is an important partner of the UK in investment, intelligence and culture. We welcome Saudi Arabian investment.”
The global private equity firm, based in London, emerged on Thursday as another interested party and has made a £2bn bid. Its co-founders are Ricardo Santos Silva and Aba Schubert, entrepreneurs from Portugal and the US respectively, and its plans for Chelsea include redeveloping the stadium. It has promised to make £50m instantly available to ease the financial strain.
Other possible bidders
As many as 200 groups have notified Raine of their interest and about 30 bids have gone in, most not in the public domain. Muhsin Bayrak, a Turkish businessman, was said by a representative to have made a bid just under a fortnight ago. Since then Abramovich has been hit by sanctions and Bayrak has been quoted as saying he will submit a fresh offer that reflects the changed circumstances. Josh Harris, the Crystal Palace co-owner, has been linked with a bid. Any takeover by the American would require him to leave Palace.
What happens next?
Raine will assess the bids, which must be submitted by 9pm GMT, and pick its preferred handful of candidates. The bank is hopeful a deal could go through by the end of this month, with time of the essence because Chelsea are operating under a special licence as a result of the sanctions on Abramovich. At the start of this month the Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, said: “I think the quickest [sale] we have ever done is 10 days. That’s not to say that record can’t be beaten but normally it takes a number of weeks.”