Ratcliffe makes €5bn bid but Boehly group the preferred bidder

Todd Boehly’s consortium has been chosen as the preferred bidder in the race to buy Chelsea from Roman Abramovich, despite Jim Ratcliffe announcing that he had made a late offer worth more than £4bn (€5 billion).

Sources around the process said on Friday that Boehly’s group had seen off competition from rival bidders. There has been no official confirmation from any of the parties involved in the sale but a decision is expected to be announced soon.

Boehly’s consortium emerged as the likeliest to complete a takeover after Stephen Pagliuca’s consortium and Martin Broughton’s group were informed they were out of the running.

Boehly is the part-owner of the LA Dodgers and founder of Eldridge Industries. The American has partnered with his fellow Dodgers owner Mark Walter, the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, the British property developer Jonathan Goldstein and the US investment firm Clearlake Capital and they expect to be granted exclusivity.

If the sale goes through, the Tory peer Daniel Finkelstein and the publicist Barbara Charone will become non-executive directors.

There was confusion when Ratcliffe, the owner of the British petrochemicals company Ineos, revealed on Friday that he had made his move to buy the European champions a fortnight after the deadline for final bids. Britain’s richest man offered to pay £2.5bn for Chelsea and included a pledge to invest £1.75bn in the club over the next 10 years.

A source close to Abramovich did not completely rule out Ratcliffe from the running but it is expected the billionaire communicated his interest too late to Raine, the American bank handling the sale.

Chelsea will need to present their preferred bidder to the UK government and apply for a licence to complete the takeover. The purchase will also need to pass the Premier League’s fit and proper persons test.

The bidders have been waiting for clarity after final talks with the club at Stamford Bridge this week. They faced a late demand from Abramovich to raise their offers by £500m to meet the Russian oligarch’s £3bn valuation. It was suggested that the extra funds would be donated to charity as part of Abramovich’s promise to give away all net proceeds from the sale.

The bidders had already been asked to provide commitments to invest about £1bn in Chelsea’s stadium and squad.

Abramovich, who has also vowed to write off £1.5bn in loans he has given to Chelsea since 2003, pledged to donate the net proceeds of the sale to all victims of the war in Ukraine before he was sanctioned by the British government last month. Ministers have insisted he will not be allowed to make anything from the sale.

Chelsea have been in limbo since sanctions were imposed on Abramovich. They cannot buy or sell players and cannot hand out new contracts. Thomas Tuchel, the manager of the men’s team, believes the sanctions have influenced Antonio Rüdiger’s decision to join Real Madrid on a free this summer. Indications that the takeover is moving towards a conclusion would be a boost for Tuchel.

Ratcliffe’s bid came as a surprise given that the billionaire has previously said there is no value in buying Premier League clubs. That view appears to have changed, though Ratcliffe has looked at buying Chelsea from Abramovich in the past.

Ineos, which would have to sell its stake in Nice if the Chelsea bid is successful, said in a statement: “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.”

Ineos, which has taken over the former Team Sky cycling team and has a stake in the Mercedes Formula One team, said there would be investment in Stamford Bridge, the men’s and women’s first teams and the academy.

“We believe that London should have a club that reflects the stature of the city,” the statement said. “One that is held in the same regard as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. We intend Chelsea to be that club.” – Guardian

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