British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe launches belated bid to buy Premier League club Chelsea

A corner flag inside Stamford Bridge stadium during a Premier League match between Chelsea and West Ham on April 24.HANNAH MCKAY/Reuters

British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe launched a belated bid to buy Chelsea on Friday, even as the sale process was drawing to a close with the selection of a preferred bidder for the English Premier League club.

Ratcliffe, who has an existing portfolio of sports investments, ruled out joining the bid when Roman Abramovich was forced to put Chelsea up for sale after being sanctioned by the British government in March for his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion. from Ukraine.

But Ratcliffe has bid £2.5bn ($3.9bn), about the same price rival investors are offering, while also pledging to invest £1.75bn ($2.8bn) in the winner of the Premier League. of Champions of 2021 for the next 10 years to try to maintain the successes enjoyed during Abramovich’s 19 years as owner.

Chelsea is among Abramovich’s frozen assets that are allowed to continue operating as a business only under terms set by the British government, which would have to grant a license to approve the sale and ensure the oligarch does not benefit financially.

The sale is being overseen by a New York-based commercial bank, the Raine Group, which had no immediate comment on reports, first from the Wall Street Journal, that LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly is the top contender for Chelsea. Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and Jonathan Goldstein, a London-based property investor who is CEO of Cain International, are also involved in the consortium in hopes of exclusive talks.

The group led by Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said it was told Friday that it was not chosen among the preferred bidders.

A third bid was spearheaded by former Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton.

It was not immediately clear how Ratcliffe’s offer would be considered.

Ratcliffe, chairman of chemical giant INEOS, owns the European teams Nice and Lausanne, as well as a cycling team and the British America’s Cup sailing team.

INEOS said 2.5 billion pounds ($3.9 billion) of the offering is pledged to a charitable trust to help victims of the war in Ukraine, though it is unclear whether the buyers can determine where the proceeds from the sale go. under government license. .

“This is a British offer, for a British club,” INEOS said.

“We are making this investment as fans of the beautiful game, not as a means of profit,” INEOS added in a statement. “We do that with our core businesses. The club is rooted in its community and its fans. And it is our intention to invest in Chelsea FC for that reason.”

Chelsea have won 21 trophies in 19 years under Abramovich, relying on his generous investment to become one of the most successful clubs in Europe.

“We will continue to invest in the team to ensure we have a world-class squad with the best players, coaches and support staff in the world, at the men’s and women’s games,” INEOS said in a statement. “And we look forward to continuing to invest in the academy to provide opportunities for talented youngsters to become world-class players.”

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