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Todd Boehly has become Chelsea’s new owner following the completion of his £3.5billion takeover.
Boehly’s consortium was named as the preferred bidder to take over at Stamford Bridge by the Raine Group, the American bank who are overseeing the sale. He has partnered with fellow Dodgers owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss as well as investment firm Clearlake Capital.
Boehly saw off competition from consortiums fronted by Stephen Pagliuca and Sir Martin Broughton and even a late £4.25bn bid from Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Chelsea confirmed by their official website that terms have been agreed for the new ownership group, led by Todd Boehly, to acquire the Premier League club.
The statement read: ‘Chelsea Football Club can confirm that terms have been agreed for a new ownership group, led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjoerg Wyss, to acquire the Club.
‘Of the total investment being made, £2.5bn will be applied to purchase the shares in the Club and such proceeds will be deposited into a frozen UK bank account with the intention to donate 100 per cent to charitable causes as confirmed by Roman Abramovich. UK Government approval will be required for the proceeds to be transferred from the frozen UK bank account.
‘In addition, the proposed new owners will commit £1.75bn in further investment for the benefit of the Club. This includes investments in Stamford Bridge, the Academy, the Women’s Team and Kingsmeadow and continued funding for the Chelsea Foundation.
‘The sale is expected to complete in late May subject to all necessary regulatory approvals. More details will be provided at that time.’
Uncertainty over Chelsea’s future has lasted months after the Government sanctioned former owner Roman Abramovich in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But now the takeover saga has ended with Abramovich completing the sale to Boehly following sign-off from the Government.
Fears grew this week that Abramovich, who was selling his shares after being sanctioned over his links to Vladimir Putin, could renege on his promise to write off a £1.6bn loan and leave the Blues in jeopardy.
Doing so would have thrown a major spanner in the works for any potential takeover, as UK ministers approving the sale wanted none of the proceeds from it to go to the Russian.
Instead, they were keen for the money to go towards helping rebuild Ukraine after they were invaded by Russian troops.
News of Abramovich attempting to restructure the takeover agreement – which would require Chelsea’s parent company, Fordstam, to pay off the debt held in trust at Jersey-based company Camberley International Investments – came as a shock to Government officials.
But the Government are now satisfied that none of the £1.6bn will end up with Abramovich or members of his family.
The Premier League club had to operate on a special licence provided by the Government in the wake of sanctions imposed on Abramovich.
If they were not fully licensed by the time the Premier League held its AGM on June 8, Chelsea risked expulsion from England’s top flight and European competitions.
The club would not have been eligible to re-enter the Premier League in that case, nor would they be put forward by the FA as Champions League or Europa League representatives.
Ratcliffe made a last-minute, £4bn-plus offer to buy Chelsea with the owner of Ineos, the petrochemicals company, submitting his offer last Friday.
But the Chelsea season-ticket holder has missed out as have the consortium led by Sir Martin Broughton, the former Liverpool chairman, and the group including Pagliuca, who co-owns the Boston Celtics, and Toronto Maple Leafs backer Larry Tanenbaum.
The offer prepared by Broughton, the ex-chairman of Liverpool and British Airways, received investment from sports stars Lewis Hamilton – who is an Arsenal fan – and Serena Williams.
The bulk of the funding for their bid was being provided by the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who would have had to sell their shares in Crystal Palace should they have bought another club.
Pagliuca, the owner of NBA team Boston Celtics, had partnered up with Tanenbaum and committed to ‘lifetime ownership’ of Chelsea if their joint bid to buy the club was successful.
The Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, withdrew from the race earlier in the process.
Todd Boehly profile: His business interests include the LA Dodgers, LA Lakers, a TV company and song catalogue of Bruce Springsteen… the US financier favours diplomacy and has won hearts and minds in his bid to buy Chelsea
When Todd Boehly was asked to identify the key to his success in the boardroom, the American’s answer revealed a businessman who valued diplomacy above ruthlessness. ‘When I’m negotiating, the objective is not to get the best deal for myself but to make a deal that’s fair to all parties involved,’ Boehly told a school reunion in Maryland.
‘Most people try to wring every penny for themselves. That strategy earns them more money on one specific deal but it doesn’t build trust or long-lasting relationships.’
Boehly certainly worked hard to satisfy the interested parties in the Chelsea takeover, beating a set of formidable opponents to become the preferred bidder, involving in his consortium two prominent season-ticket holders and promising fans he would rebuild Stamford Bridge rather than seek an alternative home.
He also engaged the consultancy services of a former Chancellor’s firm shortly before the process sought Government approval. There is no doubt Boehly has won hearts and minds over the past two months, much as he appears to have done elsewhere in life to date.
A sign of the respect that he can inspire in others can be drawn from the detail of that Landon School reunion in 2014. Five former class-mates turned up to the unveiling of a wrestling room named in his honour at the private education establishment. Boehly had served on the wrestling team that won an interstate championship in 1990 and 1991.
Two of Boehly’s teachers also attended, including Steve Sorkin, who taught maths and served as a mentor for the teenage Boehly even beyond his graduation. Boehly recalled seeking advice from ‘Sork’ when struggling at The College of William & Mary in Virginia, the second-oldest university in the United States after Harvard.
‘College overwhelmed me, my grades started to suffer and I started to languish. So I came back to Landon and I talked to Mr Sorkin,’ said Boehly. ‘It was Sork’s idea to go study at the London School of Economics. He said, “You need a redo, so go find it”. And for that I’ll forever be grateful.’
The sojourn reinvigorated Boehly and is said to have inspired in him an enduring love of the city. On graduating with a degree in finance, his career then began in earnest in 1996 at CS First Boston in New York, the investment banking division of Credit Suisse.
From there he went to the venture capitalists JH Whitney & Co and on to Guggenheim Partners in 2001, launching a credit-management business for the financial services giant. His notable contributions to it included advising clients to avoid investing in several companies where major fraud was subsequently exposed, among them the energy company Enron.
Working alongside chief executive Mark Walter, also part of the Chelsea consortium, Boehly’s commitment helped him rise to the position of president and was illustrated in an anecdoted reported by Forbes.
According to its website, while assessing the insurance firm Security Benefit, Boehly abandoned a Kansas hotel because it smelled of cigarettes and slept on a park bench. Guggenheim bought the company for £318million.
‘I just kind of lived with a simple mantra, if I said I was going to do it I’d get it done,’ he told Yahoo last year. ‘And when you have a reputation for being able to get stuff done it’s amazing what stuff ends up piling up in your inbox.’
In 2015, Boehly, 46, realised a long-held ambition to set up his own business. He began by taking with him several of the assets acquired at Guggenheim, including film-industry bible The Hollywood Reporter, the TV company Dick Clark Productions, three years on from its £278m purchase, and Security Benefit.
Seven years later, Eldridge Industries holds assets worth £32billion, with stakes in dozens of businesses.
Its diverse portfolio includes Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, NBA side Los Angeles Lakers, the song catalogues of Bruce Springsteen and The Killers, as well as myriad technology and property interests. The latter includes Cain International, headquartered in London with Jonathan Goldstein, another member in the Chelsea bid, as its chief executive. Other key figures on Boehly’s team include Chelsea fans Daniel Finkelstein, a journalist, PR executive Barbara Charone, as well as ex-Chancellor George Osborne.
Boehly is known in the US for his philanthropy, having invested in his alma mater William & Mary as well as several medical charities. Among countrymen, however, he is perhaps most celebrated for his work with the Dodgers. Under Guggenheim’s management and with Boehly serving as a partner, the franchise’s World Series victory in 2020 was its first in 22 years. The TV deal he struck had been crucial to investing in the roster.
Boehly’s ambition had been realised. For, when asked what would constitute a successful ownership of the team, he said: ‘You’re not really asking me that, are you? The more World Series we win, the more valuable a franchise it is, right?’
Chelsea fans will hope he blends his diplomacy with similar bullishness.
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