April deadline now looms for Chelsea’s prospective owners
Chelsea will host all of the shortlisted bidders to buy the club before a deadline for improved offers set for on or around April 11.
The next phase of the sale process, sent to the shortlisted bidders by New York merchant bank Raine over the weekend, which also includes the chance to meet Chelsea department heads, a tour of the club’s facilities and an aim of closing a sale by the end of next month.
Once the final offers have been collected, a preferred buyer will be selected for government approval.
It gives Joshua Harris and David Blitzer, who are behind Sir Martin Broughton’s offer, and Stephen Pagliuca, whose bid was shortlisted, just a month to divest or dilute their shares in other clubs or face elimination.
Harris and Blitzer own stakes in Crystal Palace, despite funding the bid fronted by Broughton, while Pagliuca’s 55 per cent stake in Atalanta presents a problem because Chelsea and the Italian team could meet in the Champions League.
With Raine confirming to shortlisted bidders that it would take improved offers, it is anticipated Chelsea’s final sale price will push above £2.5 billion.
Those offers must be submitted on or around April 11, which gives bidders two weeks to question Chelsea officials such as chairman Bruce Buck, directors Eugene Tenenbaum and Marina Granovskaia, chief executive Guy Lawrence and head coach Thomas Tuchel, and get a look at the club’s facilities.
It means Americans Todd Boehly, Pete Ricketts, Harris and Pagliuca are likely to fly to London to hold personal meetings and see the club themselves, although none of the groups have confirmed this.
The shortlisted bidders have been given the green light to set up those meetings and tours, which could start this week.
Having only so far seen last year’s accounts, groups are also likely to be given a more up-to-date and in-depth look into the club’s finances, although Chelsea are believed to reserve the right to refuse to answer questions.
A preferred buyer may well have been chosen by the time Chelsea face Palace in the semi-finals of the FA Cup on April 17, with confusion surrounding who Harris and Blitzer will be backing at that point.
It is over a week since Broughton insisted the identities of his investors from “all around the world” would be made transparent and yet, even with his bid now shortlisted, they are still to be confirmed.
Having become a surprise addition to the shortlist, Pagliuca is yet to confirm whether he is working with a consortium of investors or provide clarity over his plans for Atalanta now he has bid for Chelsea.
Sources close to the co-owner of the Boston Celtics basketball team claim he is prevented from making public the details of his bid by non-disclosure agreements.
Even though Raine and Chelsea know the details of the Harris and Pagliuca offers, the uncertainty surrounding their ability to complete a deal leaves Boehly as the frontrunner of the shortlisted bidders.
The Ricketts family have made it clear that they can afford the extra £1 billion commitment to invest in the stadium and squad that Chelsea are demanding, but the group remain a target of a #notoRicketts campaign from fans on social media.
Raine confirmed over the weekend that the views of Chelsea’s supporters would be considered during the final process. Fans were outraged that the Ricketts were advanced to the shortlist despite the emergence of racist emails sent by the father of the family, Joe, and comments from other members. (© Telegraph Media Group Ld 2022)
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