Independent merchant bank The Raine Group has chosen Todd Boehly’s consortium as the preferred bidder for the sale of Chelsea Football Club.
Boehly, an American businessman and philanthropist, is also the majority owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers; he has been interested in purchasing Chelsea since 2018 and even offered a bid of $2.7 billion, which was rejected by then-owner Roman Abramovich. However, recent sanctions levied by the British Government against the Russian oligarch forced him to sell the club, and Boehly is firmly back in the picture of potential ownership.
The UK must approve Boehly’s reported £3.5bn ($4.4bn) proposal before the sale is completed, but all investigative work conducted by Raine points to him being the best owner for the Blues.
Nearing deal completion
Boehly has been a favorite for the new ownership role amongst fans for a while; he was the first major figure to submit an official bid to Raine during a process that saw hundreds of applicants send in proposals. He and the other bidders then had to wait over a month before a shortlist of the top candidates was announced, which he headlined.
Part of The Raine Group’s responsibility in handling the sale was to find an owner with enough financial clout to handle the operations of the club, invest and rebuild the team’s stadium, and keep the squad competitive amongst the top European powers. Multiple background checks, in-person meetings, presentations, and a final pitch were required by all interested parties before the preferred bidder was revealed.
Now, the American billionaire and his consortium will have a five to seven-day exclusivity period, during which they will be allowed to confirm their intent to own and operate the club.
Chelsea is coming off of successful Champions League and Club World Cup campaigns, which translates to them currently holding the titles of the best team in Europe and the world. They have already been eliminated from this year’s Champions League and are projected to finish third domestically but still have an FA Cup Final against Liverpool to come.
Boehly beat out teams led by Boston Red Sox and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca and former Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton as well as a late storm from England’s richest man, Sir James Ratcliffe, who submitted a whopping £4.25bn ($5.34bn) bid early Friday morning. Ratcliff’s late entry into the race for Chelsea turned heads as he claimed to not be interested in rinsing Chelsea for profit, nor to procure further business opportunities, though he did not provide a reason as to why he wanted the team, which is a rival of his favorite Manchester United.
Who is Todd Boehly?
Boehly helped take over the Dodgers in 2012 after issues with the former owner prompted the sale.
That owner was Frank McCourt, who Major League Baseball accused of “looting” the Dodgers for $189m he used on personal expenditures. McCourt had alienated his fan base and allowed Hollywood’s finest to fall out of the top-10 in team payrolls, heading the team to an 82-79 record in his final full season in charge.
Boehly, part of the leadership of the purchasing Guggenheim Baseball Management, helped turn the franchise around almost immediately, improving relationships in the community and boosting the team’s record. In 2017, LA reached its first World Series since 1988 and ultimately defeated the Houston Astros in seven games.
Thankfully for Boehly’s group and Chelsea fans, there will likely not be as long of a rebuilding period. Chelsea is a consensus top-three team in England with European pedigree, meaning they are already competitive and just need an extra boost to help them stay at the top rather than perpetually fighting for it.
The Blues’ preferred bidder has long said that sports are defined by trophies and titles rather than just aiming to compete with the best, which feeds into the mindset that Chelsea fans are looking for from their new owner.
Approach to ownership
Todd Boehly is an extremely enthusiastic man. He lives for involvement with his organizations and is just as much a fan of his team as he is their owner.
The 46-year-old is also driven by data and analytics, a trend that has not been entirely adopted by the English Premier League, or soccer in general. With that being said, Chelsea rival Liverpool has done a tremendous job balancing its spending while targeting players that make immediate and lasting impacts; the latest example of this is winger Luis Diaz, who was purchased from FC Porto for $49.5m in January and has already made his way into the regular starting eleven.
For comparison, Chelsea forward Timo Werner, who has been heavily criticized for poor finishing since arriving from RB Leipzig in July 2020, demanded a $58.3m transfer fee, which would be considered poor business compared to Diaz’s deal.
Continuing the comparison, Liverpool has spent £470.9m ($591.8m) on players since 2017, winning the English Premier League, Champions League, league cup, Super Cup, and Club World Cup during that span. They also finished second and third domestically during the same period.
Chelsea, meanwhile, has spent £656.9m ($825.5m) since 2017, winning the league (in the 2016-17 season), Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, and Super Cup. They finished third one time and have an average league placing of 3.4 compared to Liverpool’s 2.8.
Credit for the Reds’ performance can be spread amongst manager Jurgen Klopp, the players, and management, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that the heavy math and science-based approach of the club did not impact their success— and as much as Chelsea fans revered Abramovich, he had a more direct method of dumping money onto big-name stars on the open market instead of locating and cultivating long-term assets.
Chelsea in the new era
Todd Boehly has made the ambitious claim that his mission is to make Chelsea the most globally recognized sports brand. He is stepping into an entirely new realm, both in sport and geographical location, but his success with the Dodgers speaks for itself.
At the time of publication, LA has appeared in three of the last five World Series, reaching the National League Division Series and National League Championship Series in the other two seasons. Boehly’s ball club also has the best future odds of winning the upcoming World Series by a decent margin.
Fans will appreciate that their prospective owner embodies the customs and attitudes of a true-blue fan, referring to the game as “football” and frequently attending games, especially since the sanctions were put in place and possible ownership became a reality.
Don’t let Boehly’s affection for data and numbers distract from the fact that he is still a major player financially also— he has a real-time net worth of $4.5bn, according to Forbes, and enlists the highest payroll in the MLB at $290.5m, 112.5% the budget of the second-place New York Mets. Chelsea could use that sort of money to reinvest in its squad and draw closer to reigning league champions Manchester City’s spending, which reached £818.5m ($1.03bn) during the previous five-year period— £161.6m ($203.2m) more than Chelsea’s.
Boehly is also going to be around for at least a decade as the club required assurances of a 10-year-minimum commitment from prospective owners. Abramovich owned the club for just under 19 years, and despite his carousel-style of management and stringent veteran-player policy, his consistency as a willing investor greatly behooved a Chelsea team that had not previously found anywhere near the level of success they did during his tenure.
Improving the club
Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s home ground, pales in comparison to other teams’ stadiums; their 40,834-seat capacity is just the ninth-most in a 20-team league and falls behind mid-table teams like Newcastle United and Aston Villa. Manchester United has the largest arena in the Prem, reaching a maximum of 74,140 seats.
Chelsea is also working with a rapidly-deteriorating squad— Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are free agents after the soon-to-be-completed season and have already agreed on deals with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, respectively. Romelu Lukaku, who was purchased for £97.5m ($122.5m) last summer, has frequently found himself on the bench after a brief period of success and is already rumored to be looking for a move away from England, though the club has not been able to negotiate any transfers amid the sanctions.
Vice-captain Jorginho has also been alleged to want a move to his native Italy, while Real Madrid is eyeing up a move for right-back Reece James. The team is especially thin in the center of defense and also needs to bolster its midfield to have enough depth to survive in multiple competitions. This does not even account for their wasteful attack, which is among the world’s best at creating goal-scoring opportunities but lacks true finishers and often blows tons of chances.
Fans will have to be patient with the transition in ownership, if Boehly is to take hold as believed, but they will need almost-immediate investment in their squad. Manager Thomas Tuchel recently promised that he will be around for next season if he is retained by the new boss, but is also reportedly going to push for the signing of at least two defenders. The German tactician pointed out Josko Gvardiol as an ideal replacement for the outbound duo and already made serious progress with French national Jules Kounde prior to Abramovich being frozen out.
Progress is expected to be made quickly now that Raine has approved the Boehly bid, and updates should come soon. Until then, Chelsea has five games left in the Premier League along with an FA Cup Final against Liverpool on May 14.