Chelsea football club is sold to owners of LA Dodgers, investors for $3B US

Chelsea will be sold to a consortium led by Todd Boehly, co-owner of Los Angeles Dodgers, ending 19 years of ownership and generous investment by Roman Abramovich until the Russian oligarch was sanctioned and forced to sack the Premier League club during the war in Ukraine.

The £2.5 billion ($3.1 billion US) sale price for the reigning FIFA Club World Cup winners and 2021 European champions is the most lucrative ever for a sports team worldwide, but Abramovich can’t get the proceeds he hopes that it will go to a foundation. for the war victims. After two months of swift negotiations to sell the west London club since Russia invaded Ukraine, a further £1.75 billion ($2.2 billion US) has been pledged to invest in Chelsea’s teams and stadiums.

After several competing bids were rejected, Chelsea said on Saturday that buyout terms had been agreed with a consortium that would include Boehly along with Mark Walter, the principal owner of Dodgers, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and financing private equity firm Clearlake Capital.

The Premier League must approve them as the new owner and the government must agree to the terms of the license that will allow Chelsea to continue operating as a company until May 31 while it is one of Abramovich’s frozen assets.

Abramovich has said he would write off loans of more than £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) to Chelsea, but that was made more difficult by sanctions the UK government has imposed as part of a crackdown on wealthy Russians who have ties. have with President Vladimir Putin. Abramovich’s side positioned him as a potential peacemaker, but that trail has fallen publicly in recent weeks and the billionaire has not condemned the war.

Chelsea, whose ability to sell match tickets and commit to spending on new players has been hampered by the sanctions, expects the sale to close by the end of May.

“Proceeds will be deposited into a frozen UK bank account with the intention of donating 100% to charity, as confirmed by Roman Abramovich,” Chelsea said in a statement.

Boehly is already in London and would be attending Chelsea’s Premier League game against Wolverhampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Thomas Tuchel’s team is third in the standings with four games to go. The title is out of reach, but the Champions League qualification is almost secured.

Chelsea has the smallest and most dated stadium of the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with plans to rebuild the 41,000 capacity venue that were shelved by Abramovich in 2018 as Anglo-Russian diplomatic tensions mounted.

Chelsea said the £1.75bn pledged will be used to fund investment in Stamford Bridge, the academy and the women’s team, which could win the league title on Sunday.

Boehly is a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers MLB franchise, and he also has minority stakes in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

The challenge will be to maintain the expectation of regular trophies produced under Chelsea’s expensive transformation, having collected 21 in 19 years.

Chelsea had won the league title only once – in 1955 – when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Aided by expensive purchases, the club won the Premier League title two years later and have added four more since then, most recently in 2017.

There is more competition from wealthy owners to buy and keep players. In England alone, Manchester City has benefited from investments in Abu Dhabi since 2008 and last year Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund bought Newcastle.

No details have been given about the future day-to-day running of Chelsea, which in 2003 became the first Premier League club to benefit from a mega-wealthy foreign investor.

A graduate of the London School of Economics, Boehly co-founded investment firm Eldridge Industries in 2015 and is its chairman and CEO. The privately held holding has investments in more than 70 companies, including in sports, entertainment and media.

In addition to the Los Angeles teams, Boehly has minority stakes in the esports organization Cloud9 and DraftKings, an American fantasy sports betting company.

He is president of Security Benefit, a retirement solutions provider based in Topeka, Kansas, and MRC, an entertainment company that finances and produces film and television programs, including major shows such as the Golden Globes, the American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards.

MRC’s other holdings include Penske Media, which owns Billboard, Rolling Stone, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.

Before co-founding Eldridge, Boehly was president of Guggenheim Partners. Walter, who bought Chelsea with Boehly, is CEO of the financial services company.

This Saturday is their first chance to see Chelsea win a trophy. Liverpool are the opponent in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

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