Todd Boehly: How LA Dodgers owner swung big to buy Chelsea

Some 85 days after Roman Abramovich officially put the Blues up for sale, the Boehly consortium has finally taken over

Nick Purewal
Wednesday 25 May 2022 12:26
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Premier League approve Chelsea FC takeover by Boehly-led consortium

Todd Boehly’s simple refusal to countenance any distractions has proved central to the Connecticut billionaire’s successful Chelsea takeover after his bid was finally given government approval.

Some 85 days after Roman Abramovich officially put the Blues up for sale, the Boehly consortium has finally fended off all challengers to take the Stamford Bridge helm.

Where rival bidders were either forced to fight fires or found themselves veering off course, Boehly – whose net worth is estimated to be $4.5bn – never allowed his steely focus to waver.

The laser-targeting of both Eldridge Industries co-founder Boehly and Clearlake Capital co-founder Behdad Eghbali has formed the winning consortium’s bedrock.

Boehly and Eghbali enjoy a firm friendship and close working relationship, and both men are characterised as humble and low-key – at odds with their soaring status in financial circles.

That calm and affable yet focused and professional approach won favour with those carrying out the Chelsea sale, through an often fraught and intense process.

Boehly and Eghbali were able to prove the robustness of their consortium to both Chelsea chiefs and the top brass at Raine Group, the New York merchant bank overseeing the sale.

California investment giants Clearlake will now assume Chelsea’s majority shareholding, even though Boehly will become controlling owner.

Only the strength of relationship between Boehly and both Eghbali and Clearlake has allowed the set-up to be given the green light by the sellers, it is understood.

Boehly crucially carried out due diligence on a Chelsea bid in 2019, affording a sizeable advantage amid a majorly expedited sale process.

Chelsea’s sale could have been expected to take some nine months under normal time pressure. Instead, the Blues and Raine raced through a purchase agreement in less than 10 weeks, with the whole sale including government ratification complete in just three months.

Raine and Chelsea deserve genuine credit for pulling off a deal of such complexity and magnitude so quickly, with executives understood to have worked 20-plus hour days throughout the process.

Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale officially on 2 March, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 55-year-old was then sanctioned by the UK government on 10 March, with Downing Street claiming to have proven his links to Vladimir Putin.

Whether it was interest from profile-hunters like Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak to more credible figures like British property tycoon Nick Candy and beyond, Chelsea’s sale carried an unprecedented public edge.

Beyond the court of public opinion generated by government scrutiny however, in the end, the telling negotiations remained behind closed doors.

Eventually, four bidders were taken through to a final shortlist: Boehly, the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family, Sir Martin Broughton and the Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca.

The Ricketts-led bid was beset by image issues from the off, with family patriarch Joe Ricketts’ historic leaked emails where he branded Muslims “my enemy” resurfacing and causing major concerns.

Bid leaders Tom and Laura Ricketts were able to prove their commitments to diversity and inclusion however, and with Ken Griffin’s major investment the offering started to appear compelling.

Boehly (centre) has been seen at several Chelsea games in recent weeks

Just when the other shortlisted bidders began to fret on the Ricketts-led submission however, the consortium withdrew.

That shock 15 April news generated a sigh of Easter weekend relief among the other bidders, and paved the way for Boehly’s success.

Raine chiefs were then all geared up to confirm Boehly as the preferred bidder on Friday, April 29, when Britain’s richest man threw a last-minute spanner into the works.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe submitted a bid outside of the official process in the hope of gazumping the other competing consortiums.

The submission was taken seriously, but after several days of further frenzied activity, Boehly finally secured that preferred bidder status.

Preferred bidder: Boehly (right) with Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck

Completing the purchase agreement in the early hours of Saturday 7 May ensured Chelsea’s Abramovich era would soon be over.

And now, after 19 years, 21 men’s trophies and a club transformed amid changing the face of English football forever, the Russian-Israeli tycoon’s Blues ownership is no more.

In recent weeks Boehly has been able to attend matches at Stamford Bridge, both in the directors’ box and also while mixing in the stands among supporters.

The casually dressed and laid-back new Blues supremo was understood to have been taken aback by the regularity of supporter recognition, in contrast to his lower profile at Dodgers games in the US.

The new Chelsea chief’s financial expertise leads to a natural fascination with the impact of data in sport. Chelsea can expect Boehly to seek every possible analytical edge, especially when it comes to recruitment.

Some top football financial analysts believe leading Premier League clubs could be worth north of £10bn inside 10 years, and such projections have left Boehly and his consortium satisfied with the value in their record sports franchise purchase.

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