Inside Chelsea sales: deep pockets, private promises and side deals

LONDON – The British government on Wednesday gave its blessing to the acquisition of Chelsea FC, one of the blue-ribbon teams of European football, by a US-led investment group. $ 3.1 billion – will go to the club’s Russian owner.

Government approval not only ended the most expensive deal in game history, but also the most tumultuous, secretive and even political.

Within three months of Chelsea’s Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich hastily bringing his team to market, the club’s fate was playing out not only on some of the richest footballing tournaments in the world, but also in Westminster and the corridors of power. Rising towers of Wall Street. And all of this is in the context of the sanctions imposed after Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.

“We are now satisfied that the full proceeds from the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other licensed individual,” the government said in a statement.

The path to a deal is seldom entangled in potential characters – private equity funds and anonymous maritime trusts; Lawmakers in Britain and Portugal; A octogenarian Swiss billionaire And the American tennis star Serena Williams; Featuring a mysterious Russian oligarchy and little-known Portuguese rabbi – and a rival passport, wartime peace talks and even a statement Tried to give poison.

Its results leave many questions unanswered. The team, led by Todd Bohley, co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and privately owned company Clearlake, can say for sure that they will now control six-time English and two-time European champions Chelsea and Abramovich. They will not.

First Abramovich Pointed out his intention A week before the Russian army entered Ukraine in late February to sell Chelsea – the tallest property in some of his assets. Britain And European union Russian President Vladimir V Identified him as Putin’s key ally and froze his assets.

However, concluding a contract has proven to be brutally curtailed. The final hurdle for the sale was resolved only this week, when lawmakers in Britain were satisfied with the $ 2 billion debt waiver owed to a maritime trust believed to be controlled by Abramovich. British government officials later tried to persuade their colleagues in Portugal, which was controversial. Given Abramovich obtained a Portuguese passport with the help of the rabbi in 2018 and the European Union imposed its own sanctions on Abramovich in March. Both had to approve the sale because of his Portuguese citizenship.

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But the loan was not the only problem Rain faced, having been recruited by Abramovich to handle the sale of the New York-based investment bank. The deal with Boehly’s team came with a web of conditions, some set up by the British government, some by Raine and some by Abramovich, all of which went on strike in the context of selling a sports team.

All four prospective lawyers were identified as serious rivals by Raine – Bohley’s team; One of which was led by British businessman Martin Proton Williams and Formula 1 driver Louise Hamilton Among its partners; The other was funded by Steve Bacliuca, owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics; And a member of the Ricketts family who controls baseball’s Chicago puppies – not only asked to pay the team a jaw-dropping price, but also a number of pledges, including an investment of more than $ 2 billion in Chelsea.

The club’s competitors, for example, were told they could not sell their shares for the first decade of ownership and had to allocate $ 125 million to the club’s women’s team; Invest millions in the club’s academy and training facilities; And I promise to rebuild Chelsea’s old Stamford Bridge, West London’s stadium.

At the same time, Abramovich insisted that all proceeds from the sale would go to a new charity, which would benefit war victims in Ukraine. To ensure that he does not control that money, the British government must first put it in a disabled bank account that controls it. Only then will it examine all plans for funding drawn up by Mike Benrose, former head of the UNICEF branch of the United Nations Children’s Charity, and issue a special license that would allow the Foundation to control funding.

“We will now begin the process of ensuring that proceeds from the sale are used for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine and support the victims of the war,” the government said in a statement.

The charity is one of the highlights of the deal, which was arranged by Joe Ravitch, co – founder of Rain, who directed the sale.

New owners will not be allowed to take dividends or administrative fees or lend to the group – bankers describing the sale as “anti-Glaser clauses” referring to the infamous Manchester United owners who took control. In 2005 the club made a foreign purchase.

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Many close to the process said Boehly’s bid was ultimately selected from a group of wealthy shooters because it was willing to be subdivided into subdivisions. (One of the bidders, backed by Bugliuka, said his team withdrew from the run due to the nature of the situation.)

The Premier League already exists Chelsea have signed a saleIt announced on Tuesday that it had inspected and approved the new owners “subject to government approval to satisfactorily complete the required sales license and final stages of the transaction.”

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the club. Any oversight role will fall on charity, the continued influence of two key Abramovich lieutenants who want to continue in their positions under the same external company or new owners who are inextricably linked with both Chelsea and Abramovich.

The two executives – club presidents Bruce Buck and Marina Kronovskaya, a Russian-born businessman who was Abramovich’s personal assistant, the most senior official response to the football trade in Chelsea – will earn about $ 12.5 million for their work on the sale. Commissions for management, totaling $ 50 million, and fees for Ravic are believed to be 0.5 to 1 percent of the contract value, to be paid from the club’s balance sheet, not from sales funds, one person said. Who is well versed in the structure of the contract.

British government officials clashed with Chelsea executives and financiers, saying Abramovich was willing to publicly dismiss a resolution legally blocking access to money.

The company, known as Camberley International Investments, was run by the Cyprus Trustee on its behalf. British officials believe Abramovich and his children. Abramovich lent Camberley $ 2 billion to Fordstom, the company that controls Chelsea, to finance its costs and operations. Camberley’s claim against Fordstam has now been settled, with its trustee recently resigning.

It was at that time that the British government approved the deal, with a deadline of May 31 to complete the sale.

For Chelsea fans, the sale puts an end to the sometimes ridiculously dim season. The restrictions imposed on Abramovich – and the extension Chelsea – affected everything from the team’s trip to the printing and sale of sporting events. Thousands of vacant seats piled up at Stamford Bridge during the final months of the season after a ban on the sale of new tickets, and roster turmoil erupted as players’ signatures and sales were banned.

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It will now be removed, with Chelsea players and manager Thomas Tuchel urgently seeking clarification from Boehly and his team about their plans. At least two key defenders are set to leave Chelsea this summer, and at least two – including the club captain; C├ęsar Azpilicueta – Expected to be followed.

Boehly, who has been a regular presence at Chelsea since his acquisition on May 6, has widely stated that he wants to maintain Chelsea as a major force in football. However, a group backed by a private equity firm could not happily prove that Abramovich was an owner.

For nearly two decades at Chelsea, Abramovich was happy to be allowed to talk about his money, except for a familiar but quiet presence at Stamford Bridge. Under his leadership, Chelsea became a true European power, winning five Premier League titles and two Champions League titles, hiring A-list managers in succession and investing billions of dollars in players.

His big change changed Chelsea, but also football as a whole, leading to an era of unrestricted spending, with transfer fees and players’ salaries unimaginably high a few years ago. Chelsea’s income, no matter how much it grew in those years, came at an unmatched price. Throughout his tenure, Abramovich used his personal wealth to subsidize more than $ 1 million a week in losses.

Just as Abramovich’s arrival in 2003 opened the door to a new era of English football, his departure also serves as a bookmark.

The deficit may explain part of the urgency for Chelsea to pay the premium – the fact that the biggest teams in football rarely go on sale – after all, it is unclear when or how a group of private equity investors will travel in such treacherous, chaotic waters. Gaining control of the club will begin to feel the return on their investment.

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