American tycoon Todd Boehly is on course to become new Chelsea owner following a dramatic day that saw Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe make a shock last-gasp attempt to hijack the bidding process.
Boehly’s group has won the race to be named as the preferred bidder for the Stamford Bridge club after Raine – the New York-based bank facilitating the sale – and Chelsea gave them the green light to close a deal understood to be worth £3.5billion.
The news comes after Sportsmail revealed on Friday that Boehly’s consortium – that also includes Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss – was leading the race heading into the process’ closing stages.
All that is left now is for the American-Swiss consortium to be officially confirmed as preferred bidders – but that is said to be a formality.
On Friday, fellow US businessman Steve Pagliuca had been informed that his group were out of the race, while sources close to the final remaining consortium led by British tycoon Sir Martin Broughton also indicated that they were unsuccessful and that Boehly’s bid had been given the nod.
Sources close to the process have indicated to Sportsmail that the Boehly group will now have a ‘period of time’ – understood to be between five and seven days – to ratify an exclusivity agreement to indicate their full intentions to press ahead with a takeover.
If that period of time elapses without an agreement, then Ratcliffe’s eleventh-hour attempts to gazump the three remaining bidders could yet come into play.
Ratcliffe’s offer to takeover from Roman Abramovich has infuriated the three shortlisted parties, who have been involved in the bidding process since its inception.
They believe Ratcliffe has disregarded the rules set out by Raine during the start of the process, all of which they have abided by.
Indeed, there was some confusion on Friday night over whether Ratcliffe’s offer could even be legally considered by Raine under the specific terms of the process, which were agreed by all shortlisted parties.
The owner of Ineos, the petrochemicals company, revealed on Friday that he had held discussions with the Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck on Thursday before making the offer on Friday.
Ratcliffe said his offer would include an investment of £1.75bn over 10 years to develop Stamford Bridge and other club infrastructure as well as sustaining the team at a high level.
This is in addition to the £2.5bn valuation of the club the prospective new owners have to meet – taking the total offer to £4.25bn.
It’s key to stress that the three other bidders all tabled offers in the region of £2.5bn – with varying degrees of investment.
A statement read: ‘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.
‘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.’