Premier League club
Islam haters, billionaires or sports stars? The crazy bidding war for Chelsea FC
Chelsea FC is for sale: Roman Abramovich wants 3.6 billion euros for the club. It’s not all about money though – this is where two sports legends come into play.
What is the future of Chelsea FC? In terms of sport, the team of German coach Thomas Tuchel is currently fighting in the Premier League to qualify for the Champions League and is in the final of the FA Cup. But sporting matters are no longer the focus of the London football club. The world political situation, ie the Russian attack on Ukraine, has a direct impact on the blues.
Club owner Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch, has been hit with sanctions for his closeness to Vladimir Putin, which also affect Chelsea FC. However, Chelsea are still not allowed to transfer players, extend contracts and generally not earn any money. Abramovich wants to sell the club – but who will be in charge of Stamford Bridge in the future is still completely unclear. A true bidding race has developed around Chelsea FC, which is not always easy to understand.
Chelsea FC: Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton participate in consortium
The latest candidates have prominent names and are legends of the sport: tennis player Serena Williams (23-time Grand Slam winner in singles) and Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton (seven-time world champion) have thrown their hats in the ring. The duo are part of a consortium interested in buying Chelsea FC. The group of investors is led by British multi-millionaire Sir Martin Broughton, who briefly served as Liverpool FC chairman years ago. Privately, however, the businessman is said to be a supporter of the blues.
Williams and Hamilton bring financial strength, which is certainly necessary to acquire the club. However, the investor group has more than enough money — what it lacks are softer factors. Because a football club is not a company that can be bought up and run from the top down.
The network between owners, board of directors, coaches, team and, above all, the fans can create a complicated situation – even in English football, which almighty investors are actually used to by now. Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton throw their popularity into the balance, Hamilton in particular is a folk hero in Great Britain.
Abramovich, who has owned the club since 2003, was well-respected and well-regarded by fans, with his name sometimes chanted at Stamford Bridge – but to be associated with the brutal Russian war is something that most Chelsea fans resent hurt the soul. Incidentally, a commitment like that of Williams and Hamilton in English football would not be unusual: US basketball star LeBron James holds shares in Liverpool FC.
Also involved in the Broughton consortium are Josh Harris and David Blitzer – two billionaires who know and feel comfortable with the sport. Their holding company Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) would become the majority owner of Chelsea should the investor group win the bid. This in turn could lead to upheaval in the Premier League: Harris and Blitzer would have to give up their minority stake (36 percent) in league competitor Crystal Palace. HBSE also owns the NBA club Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils ice hockey team.
Three candidates in the running
However, it is far from certain that Williams, Hamilton and their very wealthy competitors will win the bidding war. Another group of investors led by Steve Pagliuca and Larry Tanenbaum have expressed interest. Although she lacks the prominent names, Pagliuca is the owner of the Boston Celtics basketball team and holds a 55 percent stake in Serie A club Atalanta Bergamo.
The third hot candidate is a group around the US businessman and philanthropist Todd Boehly, co-founder of the holding company Eldridge Industries. Boehly has been a sports investor primarily in Los Angeles – with the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, the LA Lakers NBA team and the Los Angeles Sparks women’s basketball team.
Protest against “Islam haters”: The first consortium has already withdrawn
Another baseball-related bidder dropped out: A consortium led by the Ricketts family, owners of the American baseball team Chicago Cubs, withdrew its bid. The British news agency PA reported that no agreement had been reached on the purchase price. Whether that was the real reason remains to be seen: Chelsea fans had accused family patriarch Joe Ricketts of hating Islam and protested against a possible takeover. Another sign that in this case not only money is decisive.
Roman Abramovich is under pressure
And yet, of course, it’s all about the dear money: Roman Abramovich is reportedly asking for a purchase price of around three billion pounds, i.e. the equivalent of 3.6 billion euros. In 2003 he himself bought Chelsea for the equivalent of almost 180 million euros and has since invested hundreds of millions in the club. However, Abramovich is not in a good negotiating position – he is under selling pressure as he is currently making massive losses with the club amid the sanctions.
Forbes estimates the value of Chelsea FC at around three billion euros. It is quite possible that the club will be sold for the highest price ever paid for a sports team – so far this is the equivalent of 3.2 billion euros for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team in 2019. The sports management, the players as well as the fans should be particularly important early clarity. Because as long as the club is still owned by Roman Abramovich and the sanctions imposed on him also apply to Chelsea, the Blues are in a dead end. A decision is expected by the end of the month.