Chelsea have decided that a Todd Boehly-led group of investors is the preferred bidder to take over the club from owner Roman Abramovich, subject to approval from both the Premier League and the United Kingdom government.
Boehly, who co-owns the Los Angeles Dodgers in the United States, is now set to become the Blues' owner with voting rights split among other investors, and he sees his bid 66 per cent backed by Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm.
Still, the club, which is expected to fetch a world record-breaking fee for a sports team after a bidding war between various parties, could yet see another entity such as Jim Ratcliffe win out - though GOAL understands that's unlikely at this stage.
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Who is possible Chelsea owner Todd Boehly?
Boehly runs 60 per cent of the $6 billion valued investment firm Eldridge Industries from which he runs most of his investments, except for the Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers which are private investments.
In 2019, Boehly had a £2.2 billion bid rejected by Abramovich for Chelsea. He followed that up with an interview in Bloomberg where he stated his interest in getting involved in Premier League football.
“Football is the biggest sport in the world,” Boehly insisted. “I can’t believe American football can get to use the word ‘football’ because to me that word should be football. The fact is it is still the best product in the world. It’s 90 minutes so it has a great timeline. The passion that the fans have for the activity and the sport and the teams is unparalleled. So when you start to think about what you’re trying to build with these teams is, you’re really trying to A, win and B, be part of the community.”
One of his investments is in Fortnite, the supremely popular video game. He is estimated to have a personal net worth £3.3 billion ($4.4bn).
What's happening with Sir Jim Ratcliffe's bid for Chelsea?
His last-minute £4.25 billion bid (which comprises a £1.75 billion investment over 10 years, plus £2.5 billion to a "charitable trust" likely to be related to the war in Ukraine) came as a surprise late in the process on Friday morning. It changes the landscape of the process which is run by New York investment bank Raine Group.
It's unclear whether the bid will be allowed as the process has been designed to narrow down the options and it has missed several deadlines.
A statement read: "Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman of INEOS, has made a formal bid for Chelsea FC, for £4.25bn. £2.5bn is committed to the Charitable Trust to support victims of the war, with £1.75bn committed to investment directly into the club over the next 10 years.
"This is a British bid, for a British club.
"We believe that a club is bigger than its owners who are temporary custodians of a great tradition. With responsibility to the fans and the community.
"That is why we are committing to spending £1.75bn over 10 years that will be for the direct benefit of the club.
"We will invest in Stamford Bridge to make it a world-class stadium, befitting of Chelsea FC. This will be organic and on-going so that we will not move away from the home of Chelsea and risk losing the support of loyal fans.
"We will continue to invest in the team to ensure we have a first class squad of the world’s greatest players, coaches and support staff, in the men’s and women’s games.
"And we hope to continue to invest in the academy to provide opportunity for talented youngsters to develop into first class players.
"We believe that London should have a club that reflects the stature of the city. One that is held in the same regard as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. We intend Chelsea to be that club.
"We are making this investment as fans of the beautiful game – not as a means to turn a profit. 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.
"No further comment will be made from Sir Jim or INEOS during the bidding process."
Who else is involved in Todd Boehly's Chelsea bid?
The private equity firm Clearlake Capital is thought to be stumping up around 50 per cent of the bid to buy Chelsea.
Alongside him is his long-term business partner Hansjorg Wyss, the Swiss billionaire who first announced that Abramovich was selling Chelsea.
The Dodgers' principle owner Mark Walter is part of the group alongside British investor Jonathan Goldstein.
Advising the bid are prominent Chelsea supporters Danny Finkelstein, who is a conservative member of the House of Lords, and Barbara Charone, who is a marketing executive.
The Chelsea supporting former British politican George Osborne is advising the bid through his firm Robey Warshaw, with Goldman Sachs also working in an advisory role.
How would Todd Boehly invest in Chelsea's teams?
Any prospective bidder has been asked to guarantee a minimum of £1 billion further investment over 10 years which would go towards the stadium, women's and academy teams.
Along with the costs of buying the club, it would raise the overall financial commitment of the project to between £3.5 billion and £4 billion.
Like the other potential options, the new Blues owners have promised investment into all areas of the club and to work on the stadium.
Architects Jane Marie Smith and David Hickey, the latter who is the former project director for Abramovich’s now-cancelled 60,000-seat redevelopment, are being consulted about reviving plans for Stamford Bridge.
When will Chelsea's sale fully go through?
The Premier League will conduct an owners and directors test on the group that is expected to take roughly two weeks.
Once they've gained approval, the UK government will handle the money from the sale and issue an operating licence that frees up the club from the restrictions of sanctions.
It will allow Chelsea to renew contracts, make signings and sell players - along with running their club shop and selling tickets to new customers for matches.
It will also cut out Abramovich from the club and end a 19-year ownership period that saw the Blues win 21 trophies.
The money will be frozen or given to charity with that stage yet to be fully thrashed out.