Who is behind the consortium?
The group’s move came when the 86-year-old Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss went public with his interest in buying Chelsea from Roman Abramovich. Wyss said he was working with other investors and it soon transpired that the figure fronting the bid was Todd Boehly, an American who part-owns the LA Dodgers baseball team. Boehly, who co-founded Eldridge Industries, is worth an estimated $4.5bn and his interest in Chelsea has not come out anywhere: he had a bid rejected by Abramovich in 2019.
Nothing has been left to chance this time and Boehly has been chosen as the preferred bidder for Chelsea despite a late bid from Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
Investors include Jonathan Goldstein, a British businessman who is the CEO of Cain International and a Tottenham fan, and Boehly’s fellow Dodgers owner Mark Walter. There is also backing from the US investment firm Clearlake Capital. Daniel Finkelstein, a Tory peer and Times columnist, and Barbara Charone, a celebrity publicist, will become non-executive directors if the deal goes through. The consortium has received advice from Robey Warshaw, where the former chancellor George Osborne works.
It is anticipated that Boehly would be the most influential figure in the running of Chelsea, with Wyss more in the background. Boehly has a long history of working with Goldstein, a lawyer who has been a major player in the property world, and with Walter.
What has Boehly done at the Dodgers?
It seemed that Stan Kroenke was going to buy the Dodgers for £900m 10 years ago, only for Boehly’s group to stun the Arsenal owner by bidding £1.3bn for the franchise. It was a huge statement of intent and Boehly, who studied at the London School of Economics and is a part-owner of the Los Angeles Sparks women’s basketball team, has since shown plenty of ambition. There has been steady investment in the Dodgers and they claimed the World Series in 2020, which suggests that Boehly would be focused on winning at Chelsea.
Are there any potential hitches?
The emergence of interest from Ratcliffe throws up the possibility of a late U-turn by Abramovich. No other bidders remain in the running. None of the investors in the Boehly consortium have stakes in rival football clubs and there are no political controversies attached to the bid.
Will the approach be different from Abramovich’s?
Do not expect Boehly’s group to protect Chelsea’s position by giving them £1.5bn in loans. There is likely to be a desire to make the club self-sufficient and the days of spending £200m on signings in one summer could be over, although that does not necessarily mean that Chelsea will no longer be able to challenge for major honours. They have become one of the biggest brands in the world and could arguably do with a different approach off the pitch.
A ruthless culture of hiring and firing managers has been the norm under Abramovich, but the new hierarchy should be looking to build around Thomas Tuchel and give him more control over recruitment. This could be good for the German. Tuchel has enjoyed working with the influential director, Marina Granovskaia, and the technical and performance adviser, Petr Cech, who should stay, but a change in the boardroom could make him even more powerful.
Are there plans to renovate Stamford Bridge?
This will be key to boosting Chelsea’s finances. Stamford Bridge has a 42,000 capacity and is smaller than Arsenal’s, Tottenham’s and West Ham’s grounds. A stand-by-stand renovation is one possible solution. Moving would be fraught with difficulties because the freehold is held by the non-profit plc, Chelsea Pitch Owners (CPO).
Will there be supporter engagement?
All bidders have had to engage in dialogue with the CPO and the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, but it remains to be seen if there will be a golden share for fans.
What issues need to be resolved?
The new owners will need to provide Tuchel with funds to plug the gaps in his defence. Antonio Rüdiger has decided to join Real Madrid on a free and Barcelona are expected to sign Andreas Christensen when the Denmark centre-back’s contract expires at the end of the season. Barça also retain an interest in César Azpilicueta, who could be allowed to leave despite Chelsea triggering an automatic one-year extension in their captain’s deal.
The upheaval could leave Tuchel with Thiago Silva, Malang Sarr and Trevoh Chalobah as his only senior centre-backs. Levi Colwill could step up after a fine loan spell at Huddersfield but more experience is required.
Are there problems in other positions?
The owners will need to get to work quickly. They must start negotiations with Mason Mount, whose deal runs out in two years, and consider whether alterations are required in midfield. Decisions will need to be made over N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho, with both midfielders out of contract next year. Is now the time to sell one of them given that Conor Gallagher is returning from his loan at Crystal Palace?
As for the attack, Chelsea must also decide whether to cut their losses on Romelu Lukaku. The striker has not settled since his £97.5m move from Internazionale last summer and does not appear to suit Tuchel’s style.
Will they be active in the transfer market?
Chelsea will need to replace Christensen and Rüdiger and are likely to revive their interest in Sevilla’s Jules Koundé. Leicester’s Wesley Fofana and RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol are also being monitored, and Atlético Madrid’s José Giménez has been targeted in the past.
There is an opportunity to freshen up the squad. West Ham’s Declan Rice remains a target in midfield, though Monaco’s Aurélien Tchouaméni would be easier to buy. Similarly, the Lille forward Jonathan David could be more affordable than Benfica’s Darwin Núñez, although incomings in attack could depend on sales. There are doubts over Lukaku, Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
Note: This article is written by Jacob Steinberg and has been published at Guardian UK