Ricketts family on shortlist to buy Chelsea despite fan backlash

Raine Group have included consortiums led by Todd Boehly and Martin Broughton on list

The Ricketts family have been included on a four-strong shortlist to buy Chelsea despite a huge backlash on social media and the club's supporters' trust on Friday expressing concerns over the bid.

The family, who own the Chicago Cubs baseball team, have progressed to the next stage with consortiums led by Todd Boehly, Sir Martin Broughton and Stephen Pagliuca, whose interest has been much less publicised. Pagliuca is a co-owner of the Boston Celtics basketball team and would have to cease being a shareholder in the Serie A club Atalanta if he buys Chelsea. The American is co-chairman of Bain Capital, a private investment firm.

Opposition to the Ricketts bid has been widely expressed since it emerged that Joe Ricketts, the family’s patriarch, was accused of Islamophobia three years ago. The Ricketts family has said it “rejects any form of hate in the strongest possible terms”.

On Friday the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust said that despite a meeting this week with the Ricketts family “our concerns about their ability to run an inclusive, successful club on behalf of our diverse supporter base around the world have not yet been allayed”. It said that unless the family could address those concerns publicly and urgently “the CST Board does not believe it would be in the best interests of our members and Chelsea supporters for their bid to succeed”.

Tom Ricketts said in response: “We have listened to all of your feedback – including from the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust – and are grateful that the door is still open for us to demonstrate our commitment to working with fans to protect the club’s heritage. It is now up to us to redouble our efforts and clearly lay out a vision for our stewardship of the club with diversity and inclusion at its heart.”

The controversy has not dissuaded Raine Group, the US bank handling the sale, from including the Ricketts bid on the shortlist as part of a process that will end with Chelsea being taken out of Roman Abramovich’s hands.

Nick Candy’s offer will not be progressing to the next stage but the Chelsea supporter is in talks with another interested party regarding potentially teaming up. He is no longer working with the South Korean Hana Financial Group. A bid from Centricus is believed to be out of the running but this has not been confirmed.

Boehly, part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, has joined with investors including the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss and Jonathan Goldstein, a British businessman who is the CEO of Cain International and a Tottenham fan.

They are understood to have been among the first groups to bid and were confident from the word go of striking a deal. The Times columnist and Conservative peer Daniel Finkelstein and the PR executive Barbara Charone – both Chelsea season-ticket holders – are part of the consortium.

Broughton is also a Chelsea fan and has another, Sebastian Coe, in his group. Among the backers are the US investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who own the Philadelphia 76ers basketball franchise and are Crystal Palace shareholders. They will have to end their involvement with Palace if selected to buy Chelsea. Financial muscle is also offered by Creative Artists Agency, a US company whose portfolio includes the football agency Base, and Evolution Media Capital.

A bid from Saudi Media Group is known to have been rejected by Raine, which will take its preferred offers to Chelsea and Abramovich for them to select their No 1 option. That choice will next be referred to the Premier League for consideration under its owners’ and directors’ test. If that is passed the government will finally be asked to provide a licence to sell the club. – Guardian

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