Things are about to change at Chelsea, as we’re set to enter the next phase of the sales process and should have the new ownership group in place by the end of the month at the very latest. Hopefully well before then.
The consortium led by Todd Boehly have been reportedly selected as our “preferred” bidders, and are about to go exclusive. Wedding bells are gonna chime. And Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Bruce Buck are going to be looking on wistfully, their last minute shenanigans proving to be little more than a distraction. (Probably.)
Interestingly, sources tell me Ratcliffe bypassed Raine, and by dealing directly with Chelsea was confident in entering the race. He has not to date been told his bid is too late. But Chelsea will prioritise Boehly meaning Ratcliffe has a lot out of his control.— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) April 30, 2022
But make no mistake, whether it’s a consortium like Boehly & Co. or a single-bidder like Ratcliffe going in through the backdoor that Buck first opened for the Rickettses and then kept it unlocked, things are going to be different. Chelsea were Roman Abramovich’s toy, and he chucked money at the club for fun. Now, it’s business time, and not like it’s Wednesday.
In fact, the latest report from Nicola Imfeld, who first broke this story almost two months ago now, makes it pretty clear that Hansjörg Wyss, who was initially put forward as the leading man of this bid, is not in this to “squander his fortune” like some patron of the footballing arts.
⚽️ What role will Wyss play at @ChelseaFC? He has always told @Blickch that he will hardly be involved at the operational level. He leaves the composition of the team to Boehly. Wyss sees Chelsea as a business - he‘s not in the game to waste his fortune.https://t.co/hr7HkjvexY— Nicola Imfeld (@nicola_imfeld) April 30, 2022
Fortunately, the report almost makes it clear that Wyss is hardly a leading man in this bid. He has, at most, only the third biggest slice of the pie, but perhaps not even that much, and is apparently not interested in actually being involved in the club’s operation at all. He’s here to put in his money, and then cash out his profits a decade (though not earlier) down the line. Hopefully we never have to hear from him again until then.
So, if not Wyss, then who has the power? The majority of the “in excess of £4b” bid is reportedly coming from Clearlake Capital, who will own half the shares. The other half will be split between Boehly (most of the rest), Mark Walter (LA Dodgers principal owner), Wyss, and Jonathan Goldstein, the London-based property developer. I’m sure there will other minority investors as well. That’s how modern professional sports ownership works, unless you’re a state entity.
The bid is a collective effort with Clearlake the majority owner but a range of impressive voices inputting. Behdad Eghbali is pretty hands on and engaged. He’s a big football fan also. But Boehly, as minority owner, plans to assume day to day control.— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) April 30, 2022
Boehly “plans to assume day-to-day control” and while Clearlake are a private equity firm and they most certainly aren’t in things for fun over profit by any definition, there’s possibly a bit more personal touch from them as well by way of their cofounder Behdad Eghbali, who’s apparently “a big football fan”. I would assume he’s pretty busy and won’t be involved much in the club’s operation either, but might keep others accountable not just in terms of the finances but perhaps even results on the pitch. But I’m just guessing.
(Still not sure what happens with Marina Granovskaia or Buck. I’d guess and hope that Petr Čech stays for sure. Granovskaia’s expected to be here through at least the transition period and at least the start of the summer transfer window. Buck seems to have hitched his wagon to the wrong bids twice now, so perhaps he’s not so lucky.)
This paradigm shift might sound scary — and it might be scary — but it is also fairly standard. Sports are lucrative investments, but they rarely present opportunities for quick profit-taking. And one of the best ways to ensure long-term profits is to keep winning and stay competitive. (Time is another good way, though not as lucrative. Losing is generally bad for business.)
Jonny Goldstein (and the support of David Hickey) really impressed Chelsea. As previously reported, the Boehly group always had the strongest and most detailed plans for the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge. They have been confident for weeks of winning.— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) April 30, 2022
Perhaps most compellingly, the reason the Boehly consortium was selected was because they made the best pitch. This wasn’t an auction in the strictest sense. As summarized by CBS’s Ben Jacobs in an excellent Twitter thread, their bid “stood out” because “in each area suitors were asked to focus on, the group provided real experts”, including plans for the stadium (which Goldstein presumably focuses on) that were the “strongest and most detailed” of all the bids (even the Ricketts bid, evidently).
Jacobs expects the exclusivity period to not last longer than a week, at which the relevant signatures should be produced and we can get down business.