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Ratcliffe never in serious contention to buy Chelsea, especially with stadium boondoggle

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A long way apart

Stamford Bridge Football Ground, London, 2006 Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images

For much of the past year, Jim Ratcliffe, British billionaire, had been rumored to be interested in buying Chelsea. And while most sources agreed that Roman Abramovich wasn’t looking to sell, his visa issues, not to mention halting the stadium expansion plans, gave off the illusion that he could be convinced.

As it turns out, Ratcliffe was never in danger of coming anywhere close to a realistic bid, as brother Bob, who’s in charge of their football operation, explained on the BBC this weekend.

“No. There was some exchange, but we were a long way apart on valuation. I can’t recollect how far it was, but it was significant.”

One does wonder how significant these exchanges could’ve been however, considering that Ratcliffe, whose net worth is reportedly almost double Abramovich’s, ended up spending less than £100m to acquire OGC Nice last month.

It would appear that the Ratcliffes turned their attentions south after realizing that the sort of investment required in the Premier League, even in the lower reaches or with the likes of Newcastle United, was simply not something they were willing to finance.

“We’d obviously been looking at Premiership clubs as well. We spent quite a lot of time looking at Premier League clubs. We looked at the valuation of Premiership clubs and £5b in revenues for the Premier League and top six clubs being valued at £2bn and upwards, and £450m of net profit before tax.

“[It’s] pretty difficult to rationalise purchases in the Premier League at this time for us and then, if you look below the top six, they’re all £150m and above and you’re going to write a cheque for £50m and get in the ‘Everton Cup’.”

[...]

“Obviously people talked to us about Newcastle as well. But again you come back to a valuation in the hundreds of millions and it’s very difficult to contemplate.”

In Chelsea’s specific case, there was an additional boondoggle as well, namely the stadium that’s in need of an expansion.

“The issue with Chelsea as well is that it’s got a stadium issue and we’re all getting older and that’s a decade of your life to resolve that.”

-Bob Ratcliffe; source: BBC via Independent

At this point, a decade may be an underestimation, even. (Chelsea’s planning permission expires in March 2020, by the way, three years after mayoral approval, so we’ll either need to get going soon or truly shelve and reboot the process at some point in the future.)

In any case, Abramovich may have his faults, but one thing we cannot accuse him of is placing profits over winning. He may not be as involved these days as back in the day — and that’s not necessarily by choice — but as some coaches might tell you, that’s not a terrible thing for their job security or stress levels. Abramovich has continued to pour money into the club through thick and (the little bit of) thin and there’s little reason to think that will change anytime in the foreseeable future, especially if we can sort out the new stadium situation.