The Chelsea FC deadline produced more than 15 bids for the English Premier League team, according to someone familiar with the process, the latest in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive franchise sales in sports history.
The bidders, some individuals, some groups, were allowed to tweak and revise their offers throughout the weekend, said the person, who was granted anonymity because the details are private. It’s unclear exactly how embattled owner Roman Abramovich intends to narrow the list from here.
Representatives for Chelsea and the Raine Group, which is handling the sale, declined to comment.
The Chelsea saga is now in just its third week, and already it’s become one of the most competitive—and unique—team sales in recent memory. Abramovich decided to sell the team in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then he’s been sanctioned by the U.K. government over his close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, and a number of his assets have been seized. The team, which is playing in both domestic and European leagues, has been allowed to stay operational via a special license.
While it’s unclear who actually submitted bids, there have been a number of billionaires linked to Chelsea interest—either through reporting or by discussing the matter publicly. They include hedge fund giant Ken Griffin, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, the Saudi Media Company, English businessman Martin Broughton, British real estate tycoon Nick Candy, and notable sports investor Todd Boehly, whose portfolio includes minority stakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers.
Sportico recently valued the club at $3.35 billion, but there are a handful of reasons why the final number could vary dramatically. The sale has been an expedited process, and European soccer appears to be growing skeptical of many types of investors—Russian oligarchs, sovereign wealth funds—that have poured money into the sport over the past two decades. The team also needs a new stadium, which could cost its next owners another $2 billion.
That said, it’s rare for a top-tier European soccer team to go up for sale, and even with heavy nine-figure annual losses, clubs like Chelsea have been appreciating faster than the cost to operate them. The EPL is one of the best leagues in the world, and unlike the NFL, soccer is truly global. The 2022-25 rights cycle is the first time in which the EPL will make more from its international TV rights than it will from its domestic rights.
Abramovich has said he will forgive the roughly $2 billion (£1.5 billion) that he’s personally lent the team over the course of his ownership. He also said he plans to donate the “net proceeds” to victims in Ukraine.
If Abramovich, who is currently worth $7.1 billion, according to Forbes, doesn’t plan to profit from the sale, it may dramatically shift the way a winner is chosen. While there are many factors that determine a winner, price is one of the biggest. Without that constraint, Abramovich can prioritize something else, like the person he likes the most or the group he thinks will steward the club best moving forward.