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An offer from the Ricketts family to buy Chelsea has been ‘knocked back’ amid fan backlash though the club looks increasingly likely to end up in the hands of US investors, according to reports.
After being sanctioned by the British government, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich hired US merchant bank Raine to oversee the sale of the west London club.
Interested parties had until Friday last week to submit their offers, with Raine contacting unsuccessful applicants this week before a looming announcement to confirm a final shortlist of prospective new owners.
A bid from Saudi Media Group has already been rejected, as has an offer from New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, though successful parties have yet to receive confirmation from Raine in a process that is becoming rather more drawn-out and messy than Chelsea would have wanted.
But, according to the Financial Times, two bids are almost certain to make the final cut: an investor group led by Todd Boehly – who owns the Los Angeles Dodgers – and a consortium led by US billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer.
That duo already own NBA team the Philadelphia 76ers and have a stake in Crystal Palace – which they would need to sell – while they have also recruited Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Sebastian Coe to be part of their bid.
An offer from the Ricketts family – who own the Chicago Cubs baseball team – had initially been expected to make Raine’s shortlist, but FT suggest that may no longer be such a certainty following a backlash from supporters which has severely weakened their chances.
Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the family, was accused of Islamophobia after calling Muslims his ‘enemy’ in recently resurfaced emails, while the family also donated huge sums of money to Donald Trump’s election and re-election campaigns.
Supporters’ groups spoke out against the Ricketts family and have threatened protests, with the social media hashtag ‘NoToRicketts’ even trending – though the family released a statement insisting they were ‘decent people’ and distanced Joe from the bid.
Nevertheless, Chelsea are keen to avoid having a controversial or potentially problematic new owner, and the increased scrutiny on the Ricketts family has not helped their bid at all – though other reports suggest they may still have made the shortlist and have not been told by Raine that they are out of the running just yet.
Elsewhere, the Financial Times’ report claims Saudi Media Group’s bid was ‘not competitive’ and relied heavily on debt financing, while British property developer Nick Candy’s bid also appears to have been rejected.
Candy, a lifelong Chelsea fan, was leading a consortium mainly reliant on South Korean investment, though his lack of experience in owning a sports team appears to have counted against him.
Bids are being judged on a wide range of criteria, including how much money will be invested in the team and redevelopment plans for Stamford Bridge, while a proven record of managing high-profile assets is also an important requirement.
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Source: Metro Sport