British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe launched a late bid on Friday to buy Chelsea for 4.25 billion pounds (US$5.3 billion) as rival offers featuring American investors were already being assessed as the sale process nears a conclusion.
The offer from Ratcliffe would be the highest price ever paid for a sports team.
Chelsea was put up for sale in March after Russia owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the British government over his ties to President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine.
Ratcliffe, the chairman of chemical giant INEOS, owns European teams Nice and Lausanne as well as a cycling team and Britain’s America’s Cup sailing team.
“This is a British bid, for a British club,” INEOS said.
“We are making this investment as fans of the beautiful game – not as a means to turn a profit,” INEOS added in a statement. “We do that with our core businesses. The club is rooted in its community and its fans. And it is our intention to invest in Chelsea FC for that reason.”
The sale is being overseen by a New York-based merchant bank, the Raine Group, and the British government must sign off on the process under the terms allowing Chelsea to continue operating since Abramovich’s assets were frozen.
The Raine group had whittled down the contenders to three bids.
But the group led by Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said it had been informed on Friday that it was not chosen among the preferred bidders. Pagliuca’s group of investors included Canadian sports tycoon Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
Another consortium features proposed investment from Josh Harris and David Blitzer, the owners of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers who would have to sell their stakes in Premier League club Crystal Palace to buy Chelsea.
Another part-owner of the Dodgers, Todd Boehly, is leading another consortium hoping to be announced as the preferred bidder.
Chelsea has won 21 trophies in 19 years of Abramovich’s ownership, relying on his lavish investment to become one of Europe’s most successful clubs.
INEOS said that 2.5 billion pounds US($3.1 billion) of the bid is committed to a charitable trust to help victims of the war in Ukraine, although it is unclear if the buyers can determine where the proceeds of the sale go based on the government license.
Another 1.75 billion pounds (US$2.2 billion) will be invested in the club over the next 10 years.
“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,” INEOS said in a statement. “And we hope to continue to invest in the academy to provide opportunity for talented youngsters to develop into first class players.
“We believe that London should have a club that reflects the stature of the city. One that is held in the same regard as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. We intend Chelsea to be that club.”
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