The Guardian: LONDON, England, By Jacob Steinberg – Todd Boehly and Hansjörg Wyss are increasingly confident that their bid to buy Chelsea will be successful and are set to step up negotiations with Roman Abramovich this weekend.
Abramovich has confirmed he wants to end his ownership of Chelsea and it is believed the Russian oligarch wants a sale to go through quickly. A deadline of 15 March has been set for interested parties, with the US bank Raine tasked with making the sale, but Boehly and Wyss have stolen a march on rival bidders and are expected to have made their opening offer by Sunday night.
Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, first revealed that he could join a consortium trying to buy Chelsea to the Swiss newspaper Blick. The 86-year-old has partnered with Boehly, who part-owns the LA Dodgers, and the pair are hopeful an agreement will be reached soon. They have finalised the other partners joining them but the identity of those figures is not known yet.
Boehly reportedly had a £2.2bn bid for Chelsea rejected in 2019 and is the co-founder, chairman and CEO of the US company Eldridge Industries, which invests in sectors including media and sport. Wyss has previously worked with Boehly at Eldridge and has flown from Switzerland to California to work on the proposal with his fellow bidder. The Swiss is the founder and the former president and chairman of Synthes Holding AG, a medical device manufacturer, and a supporter of liberal and environmental causes in the US, where he lived for a number of years.
Wyss told Blick that Abramovich’s asking price was too high. It has been reported that Abramovich wants as much as £4bn but financial experts have said he is unlikely to receive much more than £2bn. A problem for Abramovich’s valuation is the size of Stamford Bridge, which has a 41,837 capacity and is difficult to redevelop.
There is a need for the bid to move swiftly. Abramovich has been under pressure since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it is unlikely a sale will be permitted if he is sanctioned by the UK government. Abramovich has vehemently denied allegations that he has any links to Vladimir Putin and the Russian state, or that he has done anything to merit being sanctioned.
Sources have said at least one other group is preparing to make an offer this week. There have been suggestions that the Egyptian businessman Loutfy Mansour, who has a Chelsea season ticket, has been considering a bid. Attempts to reach Mansour on Thursday were unsuccessful. A spokesperson for Sir Jim Ratcliffe denied the Ineos chairman would join the bidding.
The chief executive of the Premier League, Richard Masters, said Abramovich was right to sell. “The situation escalated incredibly quickly and it was the right solution because the position was unsustainable,” Masters said at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit. “The sooner the sale process completes, the sooner everyone has certainty.”
Asked how quickly a sale could happen, Masters said: “The quickest any deal has taken is 10 days. That’s not to say that deal can’t be beaten but it would normally take a number of weeks and it all depends on the complexity of the deal. Provided the information is easily accessible, easily understandable and were given all the right answers it can be done relatively quickly. If the owner is sanctioned by the UK, I don’t think it will work.”
Abramovich’s position had been uncertain since he announced plans last Saturday to transfer the stewardship and care of Chelsea to trustees of the club’s charitable foundation. That proposal, which met with resistance from the trustees, is expected to be shelved.
It is unlikely the chairman, Bruce Buck, and powerful director Marina Granovskaia will stay under new owners. However sources have indicated Granovskaia could have a future at the club. She is closely linked to Abramovich but is highly respected in football and has a strong relationship with Chelsea’s manager, Thomas Tuchel. The feeling is that Granovskaia could be an asset to Chelsea if she cuts her ties with Abramovich.
It is unclear how the prospect of a takeover will affect Chelsea’s football operation. It is thought that talks with players over new contracts could be put on hold. The defenders Antonio Rüdiger, Andreas Christensen and César Azpilicueta are out of contract at the end of the season. Barcelona want Azpilicueta and Christensen, who is also a target for Bayern Munich.
Top Feature Photo: Hansjörg Wyss (left) and Todd Boehly are part of a consortium trying to buy Chelsea. Composite: Wyss Foundation, Getty