KShortly before the end of the last bidding round, Jim Ratcliffe, founder of the chemical group Ineos, made a surprisingly high bid for the football club Chelsea FC in order to keep the club in “British hands”. Ratcliffe wants to pay a total of 4.25 billion pounds (a good 5 billion euros). Of this, £2.5 billion will go to a charitable trust that supports victims of the war in Ukraine; and £1.75bn to be invested in the development of the football club over the next ten years.
The 69-year-old self-made billionaire, who made his fortune from deals in the petrochemical industry but has also invested in sports companies for some time, presented his late bid as a patriotic act. “This is a British bid for a British club,” Ratcliffe said in a statement on the bid. “We believe that a club is bigger than its owners, who are temporary custodians of a great tradition with a responsibility to the fans and the community.” He is obviously trying to win over the British public. Ultimately, the London government must decide on the sale.
Is Ratcliffe late?
Russian-Israeli billionaire Roman Abramovich, who acquired Chelsea in 2003, is on the sanctions list as a “pro-Putin oligarch”; his assets on the island are frozen. Hence, he is forced to sell the Premier League club. Under pressure, he has announced that the “net proceeds” of the sale will benefit victims of the Ukraine war. The club owes around £1.5 billion to an Abramovich company.
Before Ratcliffe got involved in the last-minute bid for Chelsea, the American bidding team led by financier Todd Boehly, co-owner of the Los Angeles Dogders baseball team, was considered the favorite for the takeover. The investment bank Raine, which is organizing the sales process, has already invited the Boehly consortium to exclusive talks about the takeover. Behind the Boehly bidder group are, among others, the American private equity group Clearlake Capital and the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss.
Through the holding company Eldridge Industries, which he founded and manages, Boehly holds various investments in the tech, media, finance and music worlds. In December of last year, Eldridge, together with the Sony Music publishing company, acquired the author rights of US rock star Bruce Springsteen. Runners-up in the bidding race are said to include other US bidders, namely private equity moguls Josh Harris and David Blitzer, and basketball club owners Stephen Paglioca (Boston Celtics) and Larry Tanenbaum.
Many investors in Premier League
In hardly any league are foreign investors as present as in the Premier League. Manchester City, for example, is majority-owned by a sheikh from Abu Dhabi, while city competitor Manchester United is owned by the American Glazer family. Liverpool FC, in turn, is owned by US billionaire John Henry through Fenway Sports Group. Just a few months ago, the sale of Newcastle United to a consortium linked to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund caused a stir.
Chelsea would not be Ratcliffe’s first sporting engagement: his sporting investments include a five-year sponsorship deal with the Mercedes Formula 1 racing team, in which Ineos also holds a third of the shares, the British cycling team Ineos Grenadiers and the football clubs OGC Nice and Lausanne.
The rather reclusive chemical engineer from Manchester, son of a carpenter, founded his own petrochemical group Ineos in 1998 after a meteoric career in the oil industry, a merger of three dozen chemical companies that operates almost two hundred plants in twenty countries, including Germany. The Sunday Times listed him at the top of their 2018 Rich List with a fortune of £21bn. After this high-altitude flight, however, things went downhill. Ratcliffe is ranked 25th in the latest list of riches with £6.3bn. His latest projects include building a new model of the iconic Land Rover Defender.