A group led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly reached a deal to acquire Chelsea Football Club from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich for almost £ 4.3 billion, equivalent to $ 5.2 billion, the team said late Friday, marking a record sale price for a professional sports team.
The deal’s completion is expected later this month, assuming the deal wins regulator approvals, Chelsea said in a statement. It follows a roughly two-month auction process that attracted a who’s who of American bidders seeking to acquire the marquee sports brand.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Friday a deal had been reached. The Boehly group, which also includes US-based investment firm Clearlake Capital among others, beat out two other US-led groups for the right to negotiate a final deal.
The Chelsea sale is a high-profile example of the financial reshuffling of Russian wealth sparked by the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Abramovich has owned Chelsea for almost 20 years, spending lavishly on players and absorbing total team losses of more than $ 1 billion to turn the English Premier League club into a consistent performer often competing for titles. It won last year Champions League, the top tournament among European clubs.
But in March, the Russian oligarch, under pressure from UK-imposed sanctions because of his ties to the Kremlin, put the team up for sale. UK government officials have closely followed the process to make sure proceeds of the sale do not benefit Mr. Abramovich.
Of the total investment, £ 2.5 billion will be used to buy shares in Chelsea and that money will be distributed to charity. The remaining £ 1.75 billion is earmarked for investment in the club, including its stadium and women’s team.
At more than £ 4 billion, the price tag would surpass the $ 2.4 billion acquisition in 2020 of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets by billionaire hedge-fund manager Steven A. Cohen as the most ever paid for a professional sports team, according to Dealogic’s data on publicly announced transactions.
Chelsea, though, might not hold that title for long as the sale of the National Football League’s Denver Broncos is expected to fetch even more.
Mr. Boehly, former president of financial firm Guggenheim Partners LLC who now runs holding company Eldridge Industries, in 2019 made an offer to buy Chelsea but was rebuffed after the price fell short of the $ 3 billion Mr. Abramovich was seeking, the Journal reported.
In 2012, he was part of the ownership group that snapped up the Dodgers for a record $ 2.15 billion.
The Chelsea deal underscores the growing popularity of the Premier League among US audiences. NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast Corp.
, last year agreed to pay close to $ 2.7 billion to extend its Premier League broadcasting rights for six years. That is close to triple the $ 1 billion value of the broadcaster’s current six-year deal, which expires soon.
With the Boehly group deal, US investors would control more English Premier League clubs than UK owners, cementing their position as a dominant force in the league. They include Boston Red Sox owner Fenway Sports Group, owner of Liverpool FC; the Florida-based Glazer family, controlling shareholder of Manchester United FC; Arsenal FC, which Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke owns; and Aston Villa FC, which is controlled by Fortress Investment co-founder Wes Edens along with Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris.
One rival group in the running for Chelsea was headed by Stephen Pagliuca, co-owner of the Boston Celtics and co-chairman of private-equity firm Bain Capital; another was led by Philadelphia 76ers co-owners and private-equity veterans Josh Harris and David Blitzer.
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Appeared in the May 7, 2022, print edition as ‘Group Led By Boehly Reaches Deal For Chelsea.’