An American with a passion for Premier League football, a billionaire with a proven track record in turning a sports team around, and a buyer who tried once before to scoop up one of the most glamorous clubs in the world. This, in a nutshell, describes Todd Boehly, who headed a consortium to buy Chelsea for a record-breaking $5,2 billion (R84bn) after the Blues had been in limbo for weeks. The club’s future hung in the balance after Roman Abramovich was slapped with sanctions by the UK government because of his close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin. There were strict rules regarding proceeds from the sale of Abramovich’s cherished club, despite his assurances the money would be donated to victims of the Ukraine war. Now a new era beckons for Chelsea after nearly 20 years of Abramovich ownership.
WHO IS TODD BOEHLY?
The 47-year-old businessman and investor has a longstanding interest in sports investments. He’s the owner of the LA Dodgers baseball team, a part-owner of the LA Lakers basketball team, and his company’s investments include interests as diverse as the rights to Bruce Springsteen’s song catalogue to fantasy and sports-betting firm DraftKings. The Dodgers were considered the worst-managed US baseball team when Todd bought it in 2011, but since then they’ve eclipsed the New York Yankees as the sport’s biggest spenders, reinvested in their stadium, repaired ties with the city and ended the club’s 32-year championship drought with a 2020 World Series victory.
Todd tried to buy Chelsea in 2019 but Abramovich didn’t want to give up his beloved baby. “Football’s the biggest sport in the world,” Todd said at the time. “The passion the fans have for the sport and the teams is unparalleled. So what you’re trying to build with these teams, you’re really trying to a) win and b) be part of the community. The Premier League is the best. I continue to believe there’s global opportunity for the best clubs.” And now that club is his. Todd, who is married to Katie Boehly, and the father of young sons Nick, Zach and Clay, is also CEO of Eldridge Industries, a holding company with investments in asset management, technology, sport and media, and is the interim CEO of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
For his second attempt to buy Stamford Bridge, Todd teamed up with several high-flyers, including Dodgers co-owner Mark Walter, Daniel Finkelstein, a UK politician and newspaper columnist, UK businessman Jonathan Goldstein and Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss. The new owners have agreed not to sell a majority stake in the club until 2032 and will not be paid dividends or management fees, BBC Sport reported. The consortium has also said it will provide £1,75bn (R34,6bn) to invest in the club, including investments in Stamford Bridge, the training academy and the women’s team.
SEALING THE DEAL
The Stamford Bridge sale was managed by Joe Ravitch, a Russian-speaking banker and co-founder of New York-based merchant bank the Raine Group, on behalf of the British government. The list of potential global buyers was whittled down to a shortlist of four until it was announced the Boehly consortium’s bid had won. While the sale was relatively fast for a takeover of a club this size, critics bemoaned the multiple extensions of the deadline for final offers to get the highest price. The very public sale also created embarrassment for potential buyers, such as the Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and billionaire Ken Griffin, who made a joint offer but struggled to overcome claims of racism after anti-Muslim emails sent by family patriarch Joe Ricketts in 2019 resurfaced. Unable to distance themselves from the furore, they pulled out of the process.
BEST FOR THE BLUES
Paul Canoville (58), Chelsea’s first black player and the club’s current ambassador on racism, backed Todd’s consortium bid, saying it was “by far the best fit for Chelsea and our fans”. He was impressed by the consortium’s sports marketing expertise and its “passion for social impact around community outreach”. “I think they would do a great job of taking our club to a new level on all fronts,” he added.
TIGHTENING THE PURSE STRINGS
Chelsea will have to change their approach in the transfer market under their new owners, football finance expert Kieran Maguire believes. During Abramovich’s reign, Chelsea spent over £2bn (R39.58bn) of their owner’s personal money on player transfers, securing the best in the world. The strategy was a success and Chelsea enjoyed the most successful period in its history under Abramovich, becoming a serial contender for domestic and international honors and winning five Premier League and two European Cups.
But Kieran says this way of doing business will be unsustainable for the new owners. The Blues’ focus now will be on investing in younger players with resale value and player retention. “Roman Abramovich’s approach was, ‘if I sign a player and it doesn’t work, then we just go and sign another player or we replace the manager’. I think what we will see is a more data analytical, a more measured and more ‘moneyball’ approach coming from the Boehly group. “This will be a change of strategy but Liverpool FC is run on a similar basis, and it hasn’t done them any harm.”
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON
Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea’s manager, says it’s not his job to explain the DNA of the club to its new owners. “I’m head coach and I have enough to do. If [Todd] wants my impression, I am happy to give it but I’m not too sure this is my job and I’m pretty sure he knows very well what Chelsea is all about.” Todd, who had not yet met the coach, had been expected to reassure him of having the support and backing of the consortium once the takeover is finalised, The Telegraph reported. Thomas has said he has no intention of leaving the club.
CHELSEA IN NUMBERS
The estimated cost of the much-needed rebuilding of the Stamford Bridge Stadium. Chelsea cannot relocate to another stadium in terms of an agreement Abramovich made with his predecessor, Ken Bates.
American businessman Stan Kroenke’s purchase price for Arsenal in 2018, which makes the $3.1bn price of Chelsea seem a fair deal.
The somewhat unsatisfying final score in the Chelsea-Wolves game, which new owner Todd Boehly had flown to the UK to watch on 7 May.
The position Todd Boehly holds on the Premier League owners’ rich list, with a personal fortune of $4,5bn. Manchester City’s owner, Sheik Mansour, heads the list with a personal worth of $20bn.
The number of American firms and individuals who now either own or have ownership stakes in English soccer teams. That exceeds the number of Americans playing for English