Todd Boehly’s $4bn rollercoaster! Chelsea’s new owner gets the perfect feel of his club’s ups and downs in their dramatic draw with Wolves… and his Stamford Bridge tenure promises to be a thrilling ride
- Todd Boehly watched on ruefully as Wolves equalised late on against Chelsea
- There will now be plenty more weeks like this once his takeover is wrapped up
- Boehly has splashed cash early on in his previous ventures in search of success
- Boss Thomas Tuchel has urged the club to end their protracted takeover saga
At least Todd Boehly now knows what he is getting for his £4.25billion. Hopefully he will not be experiencing acute buyer’s remorse today. But he looked on ruefully, flanked by his colleagues from his private investment firm Eldridge, lawyer Duncan Bagshaw and his corporate takeover specialist, E Adams Miller, as Conor Coady headed home the 97th-minute equaliser, which laid bare Chelsea’s slump in form.
Earlier he had looked on exasperated as VAR took a good three minutes to decide that Ruben Loftus Cheek’s goal was offside as fans of both clubs sang ‘F*** VAR.’ His looked puzzled, held out his hands in bemusement and appeared to frown, though his dark glasses. Welcome to the Premier League, Todd. There will be plenty more weeks like this.
On Saturday, at 1.35am, the club released the statement that Boehly, Clearlake Capital, his LA Dodgers partner Mark Walter and Swiss medical device billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, had agreed terms of the £2.5bn takeover of the club, with a further £1.75bn committed to the stadium over the next 10 years.
Todd Boehly endured an array of emotions during Chelsea’s thrilling 2-2 draw with Wolves
Conor Coady crashed home a header in the 97th minute to leave the Blues’ new owner stunned
Jonathan Goldstein, the London property developer and Spurs fan, will also be an investor. Danny Finkelstein, Times Columnist, House of Lords member and former advisor to David Cameron, will be on the board with Barbara Charone, legendary London music executive.
The Roman Abramovich era is officially drawing to a close. Something new is upon us and for some, that change will be scary, with 60 per cent owned by private equity firm Clearlake, run by billionaires Jose E Feliciano and Behdad Eghbali. We are told that Clearlake are happy to take a back seat and let Boehly run the show and he certainly has been driver of this bid. And it is his force of personality the club will need in the coming days.
Even now though the waiting is not quite over. The Premier League have already assessed him and his partners regarding the owners’ and directors’ test. There are no issues anticipated and he should get the green light this week. But the UK Government still have to amend the terms of licence under which Chelsea are operating, given that all other Abramovich businesses are sanctioned and frozen.
Boehly placed his head in his hands in the stands at Stamford Bridge after the late equaliser
Not a penny will be allowed to feed back to Abramovich. He will also not be allowed to set some aside for a foundation that is linked to him. The issue of the £1.6bn loan, its tax status and whether it can be written off, will be resolved by freezing that amount of the £2.5bn sale price in an account until those legalities can be resolved. £0.9bn in theory will be available for charitable causes immediately.
But the Treasury are not going to clear such a fraught transaction without being clear the money cannot be traced back to Abramovich.
The situations of chairman Bruce Buck and managing director Marina Granovskaia also will be intriguing. Here, Buck joined Boehly in his private box at half-time and spent five minutes talking to him.
The situations of Bruce Buck (left) and Marina Granovskaia (right) also will be intriguing
The chairman is expected to stay on initially. The Government will not object to that, but it will be up to Boehly to decide on ‘the optics of keeping on two of the closest aides of a sanctioned oligarch,’ said one Government observer.
In reality, in the short term they will need Granovskaia and technical advisor Petr Cech to get through the next few weeks.
First on the agenda will be upgrading the contracts of Reece James and Mason Mount. The club has not been able to engage with players on these deals. It can at least start informal meetings now. Cech is likely to tell them to pay the going rate, which will be more than £150,000 a week.
Next will be how to replace a defence, with Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen going and Cesar Azpilicueta’s future in doubt with one year left on his deal. And then there is the No9 issue: Romelu Lukaku came good on Saturday, winning a penalty, converting it and then scoring for 2-0. He has 14 goals for Chelsea and is their leading scorer. But that hardly means he has been a success.
The Treasury will not allow any funds to be traced back to former owner Roman Abramovich
From what we know of Boehly, there will be signature signings this summer They are not about to run this club in the fashion of Abramovich, losing £1.6bn over 19 years. Currently, in what amounts to a period of austerity for Abramovich, Chelsea run right up to the Financial Fair Play rules, which means they run losses of about £30m a season. That is not the Eldridge or Clearlake way. But equally they are not the Glazers.
It is understood there are anti-Glazer clauses in the deal to prevent the new owners using the club as a cash machine, taking out dividends and management fees. That is not their play. Boehly has explained how he sees sports rights as the best content in the world. The payout from TV companies now has grown exponentially over 20 years. Boehly is betting it will carry on growing so again.
He believes sports rights are so valuable it is akin to buying a bond that pays out year in, year out. And all the time, the value of the asset is rising, so that Chelsea will be worth £5bn in 10 years’ time.
Boehly spoke to the club’s chairman Bruce Buck during the game for around five minutes
That is the bet. Plenty disagree. Even some Premier League owners are sceptical about the price.
But Boehly scoffed when people said his consortium had overpaid for the LA Dodgers in 2012 for $2bn, which was then the biggest deal for a sports franchise. Their TV rights were reckoned to be worth about $5bn a year. He sold them for $8bn a year in 2013.
This Chelsea deal eclipses that one as the biggest ever. And what is heartening for Chelsea fans is that he spent big early on to create what he described as a ‘jolt of energy’. The Dodgers were a distressed asset at the time, in financial trouble and failing on the pitch.
Boehly spoke about ‘getting the energy going’ by doing ‘a lot of transactions early on’ and brought in a string of A-List players. They became the biggest spending baseball franchise, outspending the New York Yankees and winning the World Series in 2020.
Thomas Tuchel has urged the Blues to reach a resolution to their protracted takeover saga
If he mimics that, there will be a signature signing this summer. Declan Rice would be an obvious one. But they will not be shy about spending, even if they cannot afford the expensive mistake Abramovich made.
Chelsea’s data analysts department will get an overhaul and the stadium will be redeveloped but we are probably looking at a 10-year transformation.
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said: ‘The situation (being sanctioned) is so long now that we need it to be solved. We have our own stuff to solve because we struggle at the moment.’
Indeed. The end of the Roman era cannot come soon enough.
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