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Boehly's plans for Chelsea: From Liverpool-style transfers to redeveloping Stamford Bridge

10:00 AM GMT 07/05/2022
Todd Boehly 2022
A consortium led by the American has beaten off a host of rival bidders to complete its takeover of the Premier League club

Chelsea are set to enter the unknown, with a Todd Boehly-led consortium set to buy the Blues from Roman Abramovich after a competitive and protracted bidding process that has been going on since March. 

Boehly, who owns the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Dodgers, is expected to be given Premier League approval to complete his purchase after finding an agreement with the New York investment bank - Raine Group - that facilitated the sale. 

The US billionaire, who has a net worth of around £3.3 billion ($4.4bn), has been a popular option among Chelsea supporters because of his knowledge of the club and his success in other sports.

His cause has also been helped by the fact that he's been fairly transparent with his proposal during the bidding process. 

Of course, it's highly unlikely that any owner will continue running Chelsea as Abramovich did.

Having little need to run the club for profit, Abramovich pumped over £1.6bn ($2bn) of his personal wealth into the outfit to ensure that the team remained successful on the field. 

From now on, the Blues will need to be savvier in the transfer market and fund the business through new revenue streams.

Indeed, when it comes to player recruitment, Chelsea now intend to model themselves on Liverpool, who have managed to compete with Manchester City for Premier League titles by making signings specifically suited to their manager's footballing philosophy.

In truth, though, while the start of the Abramovich era was undeniably wild in its approach to transfers, the Blues' strategy is now much more mature, while the huge investment in the academy at Cobham has been paying dividends for years now.

Of course, while Chelsea have already started moving towards the data-based scouting championed by Liverpool, costly mistakes are still being made in the market.

The signing of Romelu Lukaku for a club-record £100 million ($136m) is obviously the most glaring case in point, given the Belgian doesn't fit with Thomas Tuchel's style of play at all. 

As well as figuring out what to do with Lukaku this summer, it is understood that Boehly's camp are concerned by the amount of expiring contracts among the playing staff, with Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen having already told the club that they will be leaving on free transfers this summer.

The new owners are desperate to ensure that neither Mason Mount nor Reece James are tempted to quit Stamford Bridge, given that they are not on the kind of lucrative salaries that their talent merits.

Still, Chelsea fans will be encouraged by the Boehly-led group's awareness of all of the problems that immediately need resolving.

That should not come as much of a surprise, though, given Boehly did his due diligence on Chelsea in 2019 when he first tried to buy the club.

Of course, in the end, his £2.2bn ($2.75bn) offer was rejected by Roman Abramovich, even though the Russian was entertaining the idea of selling up after his tier-1 investment visa was withdrawn by the United Kingdom government following a rise in political tensions with Russia. 

At the very same moment, Chelsea's ambitious £1bn ($1.25bn) redevelopment of Stamford Bridge was cast aside.

Now, with the ground one of the smallest in the Premier League, addressing that issue has been central to the process of finding a new owner. 

Indeed, Boehly's group produced one of the most detailed redevelopment proposals and have already spoken to several architects, such as Jane Marie Smith and David Hickey, who were involved in Abramovich's initial project.

Furthermore, all bidders were asked to commit at least £1bn towards the running of the men's, women's and academy operations during the first decade of ownership.

They were also later asked for a further £500m ($625m) to be added towards the sale price, which will either go towards a charity relating to the ongoing war in Ukraine or be frozen in a bank account controlled by the government. 

It must be said that although Boehly is the face of this bid, there's a huge list of important players behind the scenes, the most significant of which is arguably Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm that is financing at least 66 per cent of the acquisition.

Behind Clearlake is co-founder Behdad Eghbali who is committed to being an 'active director' despite the scale of his other investments.

They will have a powerful stake in the future of the club, but some around the process believe that they will at least be partly financing the purchase on debt. 

There's also Boehly's long-term business partner Hansjorg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who won't play a particularly visible role but will be an important influence, the LA Dodgers' principal owner Mark Walter, and British investor Jonathan Goldstein.

All in all, this is a group that is incredibly well-connected in the financial and political spheres.

They've employed the services of big banks such as Goldman Sachs and Robey Warshaw, the latter of which has former UK Chancellor and Chelsea supporter George Osborne working in an advisory role.

They will also add Chelsea fans to their board, including Danny Finkelstein, who was a Member of the House of Lords and a columnist for The Times newspaper. Alongside him is Barbara Charone, who is a powerful marketing executive in the entertainment industry. 

The reason why so many prominent figures were attracted to the bid was the mere fact that a blue-chip asset doesn't come onto the market too often, with Premier League clubs increasingly hard to buy, even for the wealthiest people in the world. 

Being based in London made Chelsea an even more attractive proposition to investors, who also believe that the Blues have not exploited their commercial potential as effectively as some of their 'Big Six' rivals.

Boehly, who spoke at the 2022 Milken Institute Global Conference during the sale, spoke of his plans to monetise fans in creative ways. 

“You’re just characterising it as ‘tokenisation’ because it’s digital," he said. "But the reality is if you want to buy stock in the Green Bay Packers, that to me is ‘tokenisation’.

"You have no rights, you have no control, but you can say you have an ‘interest’ in the Packers.

“I think loyalty programs, whether it’s Vivid Seats, Dodgers, Lakers, Chelsea, we’re all thinking about how do we have direct customer relationships that we can then build upon.

"And if a form of that comes in a ‘tokenisation’, then so be it, but what we really care about is direct access to our fanbase.

“And if we have direct access to our fanbase, [then] we can start thinking about [having] lots of tiers of different fans that want different products.

"So, we’re starting to think a lot about what it is that we really want to give our ‘super fans’ and how do we develop fans.”

It will be interesting to see how his ideas are received, with supporters likely to need to adjust their expectations of how the club will operate. 

It could create more turbulence, with uncertainty already surrounding the board's long-term future and whether they will keep the promises made during the negotiating process. 

Still, with the Boehly group closing in on their takeover, the Blues are now set to move on from a glorious but ultimately controversial era under Abramovich. 

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