Bidders for Chelsea must guarantee that they will not sell a controlling stake for at least a decade as Roman Abramovich’s tenure as owner nears its conclusion.
Sky News understands that Raine Group, the merchant bank handling the auction, has asked the three shortlisted bidders in the last few days to provide commitments that they will retain control of the Blues until at least 2032.
The request from Raine is thought to be unprecedented in a football club auction, and comes as the adviser to Abramovich also seeks a number of other assurances about Chelsea’s future governance and decision-making.
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A source at one of the bidding groups said they had been told that the 10-year ownership demand would apply only to the controlling parties in each consortium, with the new owners also able to raise money by issuing additional shares to provide new funding for the club.
The ownership guarantee would be incorporated in the sale contract, making it legally enforceable, they added.
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The request highlights another unusual aspect of the Chelsea sale process at a time when the ownership of English football clubs faces unprecedented scrutiny and government intervention.
Commitment an attempt to ‘ensure stability and continuity’
The ownership guarantee would be incorporated in the sale contract
The 10-year ownership commitment being sought by Raine reflects an attempt to ensure stability and continuity at Stamford Bridge, according to one prospective investor.
In addition to the price it is able to secure, Raine has told bidders throughout the eight-week process that it is focused on securing the best future steward of last season’s Champions League-winners.
Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003, and has turned the club into one of the top sides in Europe, with 19 major trophies having been won under him.
Of the remaining bidders, the consortium headed by Boston Celtics part-owner Steve Pagliuca and Larry Tanenbaum, the NBA chairman and Toronto Maple Leafs owner, has publicly committed to “lifetime ownership” of Chelsea.
Between them, the two men would have outright control of the club, with Tanenbaum telling Sky News last week: “My goal, and that of Steve, would be to own Chelsea for decades to come.”
The bid fronted by Sir Martin Broughton, the former British Airways and Liverpool FC chairman, would involve Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment – owner of a stake in Premier League side Crystal Palace and a string of US sports teams – holding a controlling interest.
A source close to that bid said there would be “no exit requirements” for any of its major investors.
The other shortlisted bid would be 66 per cent-owned by Clearlake Capital, a California-based investment firm, but would split voting rights equally with a group of investors led by Todd Boehly, the LA Dodgers part-owner.
Boehly’s bid is being advised by Goldman Sachs and Robey Warshaw, where the former chancellor – and Chelsea fan – George Osborne, now works as a partner.
All three bidders are understood to have indicated that they would pay well over £2bn to buy the club, with a minimum further investment of £1bn committed to its stadium, academy and women’s team.
The last eight weeks have witnessed a bidding frenzy unprecedented in English football, with billionaire financiers, media tycoons, and sports team owners from several continents joining forces in an attempt to gain control of the Blues.
Sky News revealed last week that Sir Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams, two of the world’s biggest sports stars, were committing millions of pounds to the consortium spearheaded by Sir Martin.
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