The Chelsea sale is moving closer to a conclusion.
The bankers running the process have begun telling groups that they’re no longer in contention to purchase the English soccer giant, according to someone on the receiving end of that communication. The person was granted anonymity because the matter is private.
More than 15 individuals/groups submitted bids for the club before last Friday’s deadline, and it’s unclear how many have already been eliminated. Representatives for Chelsea and the Raine Group, which is handling the process, declined to comment.
Chelsea is one of the most popular—and most valuable—soccer clubs in the world, and it has attracted interest from billionaires on all six inhabited continents. Notable names that have been reported as interested, or that have publicly discussed bids, include hedge fund giant Ken Griffin, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé, the Saudi Media Company, English businessman Martin Broughton, Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, British real estate tycoon Nick Candy, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Josh Harris, and notable sports investor Todd Boehly, whose portfolio includes minority stakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers.
According to sources, the bidders were allowed to tweak and revise their bids over the weekend. It’s not uncommon in these sales for people to merge efforts or join other groups, as everyone jockeys to present the most enticing offer, both financially and in terms of participants.
The Chelsea saga is now in its fourth week, and already it’s one of the most competitive—and unique—franchise sales in recent memory. Current owner Roman 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.
Sportico recently valued the team at $3.35 billion, and the specifics of the sale could push that number significantly higher or lower. The process has been expedited, 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 NFL football, 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, who is worth $7.3 billion according to Forbes, 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, though it’s unclear if that will be allowed to happen in the wake of the U.K. sanctions. It’s also unclear who hold the ultimate authority in selecting the auction winner.