A string of bidders for Chelsea have been eliminated from the £3 billion auction of last season’s Champions League winners as the hunt intensifies to find Roman Abramovich’s successor as owner.
Sky News has learnt that a number of bidders including Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets American football team, have been notified that their bids for the London club had been unsuccessful.
Sources close to several bidders confirmed that they had been told on Thursday by Raine Group, the bank handling the process, that they were not being shortlisted.
Press Association reported that one of the unsuccessful bidders was Saudi Media Group.
The rejection of Mr Johnson’s bid would, if confirmed, eliminate one of the apparent early frontrunners to acquire the Stamford Bridge side.
Uncertainty surrounded the fate of a number of other prominent bids on Thursday afternoon, including those of Centricus, a London-based asset manager which only disclosed its interest publicly four days ago, and Nick Candy, the London-based property developer who has recruited a number of prominent financiers to strengthen his offer.
Aethel Partners, another bidder which had announced its offer publicly, is also not expected to make it to the next phase of the process.
It was unclear whether Raine had formally decided on a final shortlist, but among the leading contenders to buy Chelsea are consortia led by Todd Boehly, the LA Dodgers part-owner, and Sir Martin Broughton, the former Liverpool and British Airways chairman.
A joint bid by the Ricketts family and Ken Griffin, the hedge fund billionaire, is also a serious contender, and people close to the consortium expressed optimism that they were overcoming issues raised by historical racist comments by one member of the Chicago Cubs-owning family.
Race to buy Chelsea: Boston Celtics owner Pagliuca emerges as latest suitor
A joint-owner of the Boston Celtics and Serie A side Atalanta has emerged as one of the parties who have tabled offers to buy Chelsea.
Sky News has learnt that Stephen Pagliuca, a prominent private equity executive who co-chairs Bain Capital, submitted a bid for the Premier League club ahead of the deadline late last week.
It was unclear on Thursday who Pagliuca’s partners in his bid for Chelsea are.
With wealth estimated in the hundreds of millions – rather than billions – of dollars, sports industry insiders said it was unlikely he had bid for Chelsea alone.
If Pagliuca does not make it to a shortlist of bidders expected to be selected by Raine Group, the merchant bank handling the sale, he could seek to team up with one of the remaining consortia.
Chelsea fans able to buy tickets again
The UK government has made amendments to Chelsea’s operating licence, meaning fans are now able to buy tickets to certain matches and the club have access to a £30m fund via their parent company.
Section 10.3 of Chelsea’s amended operating license says: “Under this licence, subject to the conditions below, the Parent may pay the Club up to £30,000,000.00 in respect of cashflow or liquidity issues faced by the Club.”
The Parent is Fordstam Ltd which is owned by Roman Abramovich, who was sanctioned by the UK government on March 10. Chelsea FC PLC is supported financially by Fordstam.
In another change to the licence, Chelsea fans can now buy tickets to away matches, cup games and women’s fixtures
It means fans will be able to purchase tickets for Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace at Wembley on the weekend of April 16 and 17.
However, tickets for home Premier League games are still subject to restrictions. Only season-ticket holders and those who purchased tickets before the UK government sanctioned owner Abramovich will be able to attend.
Chelsea’s fixture schedule:
To be rearranged: Leicester (H) Premier League
To be rearranged: Leeds (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
March 19 – Middlesbrough (a) FA Cup QF
April 2 – Brentford (H) Premier League
April 6 – Real Madrid (H) Champions League QF first leg
April 9 – Southampton (a) Premier League
April 12 – Real Madrid (a) Champions League QF second leg
April 16/17 – Crystal Palace (Wembley), FA Cup semi-final
April 20 – Arsenal (H) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 24 – West Ham (H) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
April 26/27 – Man City/Atletico Champions League SF first leg *
May 1 – Everton (a) Premier League, live on Sky Sports
May 3/4 – Man City/Atletico Champions League SF second leg *
May 7 – Wolves (H) Premier League
May 14 – FA Cup final *
May 15 – Man United (a) Premier League
May 22 – Watford (H) Premier League
May 28 – Champions League final *
* Subject to progress