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New York Jets owner and former US ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson is reportedly launching a $2.62 billion bid to buy English soccer club Chelsea FC as billionaire investor Griffin and Chicago Cubs owner are combining resources to make their own run at the team.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich recently put the team up for sale in anticipation of British sanctions following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Sun is reporting that Johnson, the billionaire heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, is hoping to submit his offer by Friday, which is the deadline set by the bank handling the sale, the Raine Group.
Johnson’s offer is less than the Saudi Media Group’s reported $3.5 billion offer, but he believes he can raise the club’s profile in America, raising the team’s value considerably. Chelsea currently has the top American player, 23-year-old Christian Pulisic.
“What Chelsea need right now is longevity and stability when it comes to a new owner. Woody and his team think they can provide that,’ a football source told the Sun. “He’s run the Jets successfully and knows a huge amount about the sports industry. And he’s spent the last four years in London and knows it well.”
The University of Arizona graduate, who is estimated to be worth $6.3 billion, is thought to have a good understanding of Chelsea and the Premier League, having lived in London during his time as the ambassador to the UK under former President Donald Trump.
Johnson bought the Jets in 2000 for $635 million. Shortly after that purchase, he was faced with the sudden resignation of new head coach Bill Belichick, who left to join the New England Patriots and, ultimately, win six Super Bowls alongside quarterback Tom Brady.
The Jets had won an AFC divisional play-off game in 1998 but would not reach that stage again until 2009, almost a decade into Johnson’s ownership. What’s worse, the Jets have not posted a wining record since 2015, and are a pitiful 59-101 since their last playoff appearance in 2010.
Although the financial value of the Jets has risen to $3.2 billion due to the NFL’s vast television contracts, that is little consolation to fans, who have seen the team decline dramatically over the last decade.
In 2017, fans urged him to sell up, with banners like ‘Dear Woody, Sell the team’ displayed around the MetLife stadium.
Meanwhile the Ricketts family, the billionaire owners of the Chicago Cubs, and Griffin have come together to create an investment group and will lodge a formal offer for the west London outfit on Friday.
A spokesman for the consortium told Sky: ‘The Ricketts Family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, can confirm they will be leading an investment group that will make a formal bid for Chelsea Football Club this Friday.
‘As long-time operators of an iconic professional sports team, the Ricketts Family and their partners understand the importance of investing for success on the pitch, while respecting the traditions of the club, the fans and the community.
‘We look forward to sharing further details of our plans in due course.’
Griffin is the founder and chief executive of Citadel, an American multinational hedge fund and financial services company.
Forbes recently estimated the 53-year-old’s wealth at $26.5 billion, which makes him the reported 45th richest man in the US.
The Ricketts’ family fortune came from founding the electronic trading platform, TD Ameritrade, which was acquired by the Charles Schwab Corporation in 2020.
Joe Ricketts stepped down as their chairman in 2008 but he and his family still own around 12 percent of the company and his son Todd sits on the board.
The family – including Cubs chairman Tom and his three siblings Peter, Laura, and Todd – have since gone on to share ownership of the Cubs with their parents since through their family trust.
The Major League Baseball team won the 2016 World Series under the Ricketts’ leadership, ending a 108-year title drought.
Previously the Ricketts family was reported to have interest in Italy’s AC Milan.
Chelsea, the European champions, are currently operating under a special license and are now effectively controlled by the British government.
Abramovich bought the club in 2003 for a reported 140 million pounds ($183.16 million). He had funded Chelsea via 1.5 billion pounds in total loans through Fordstam Limited, the entity through which he owns the club.
His investment resulted in the most successful era in their history as they won five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League twice.
Chelsea are ranked by Forbes as the seventh most valuable club in world soccer at $3.2 billion.
The club are third in the league standings — 11 points behind leaders Manchester City — while they are set to play Lille in the Champions League last-16 second leg later on Wednesday.
Source: Daily Mail