Roman Abramovich’s time as Chelsea owner looks all but over after the Russian billionaire announced his intention to sell up on Wednesday.
Since purchasing the club from Ken Bates in 2003, Abramovich has transformed Chelsea’s fortunes and won 18 major trophies – the most of any English club in that time, equal with Manchester United.
But his tenure at Stamford Bridge appears to have been brought to an end following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with pressure growing for the government to sanction him and other Russian billionaires living in the UK.
Abramovich is selling the club with reluctance and speculation about his successor continues to grow.
News of Abramovich’s intention to sell Chelsea first broke on Wednesday when billionaire Hansjorg Wyss told Swiss newspaper Blick that he had been approached to buy the club.
Wyss, 86, earned his billions as the founder of Synthes, a manufacturer of bone fracture implants and surgical power tools which he sold to pharma behemoth Johnson & Johnson in 2012.
He has since become “among the most philanthropic people in the world”, in the words of Forbes, with a charitable foundation possessing more than $2bn in assets.
According to Inews US investors were showing interest in the club and it is thought that Boehly, chairman and chief executive of investing firm Eldridge Industries, is part of a consortium looking to make an offer.
The part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team made a bid of over £2bn for Chelsea in 2019 which Abramovich reportedly rejected because it was £1bn shy of his asking price.
He worked his way up various American banks and investment funds before founding his Eldridge Industries in 2015.
Boehly has placed on record his interest in purchasing a Premier League club before and he has also previously joined forces with Wyss to pump equity into Eldridge, suggesting the two have an established working partnership. A representative of Eldridge did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the richest man in Britain, has developed an extensive sporting portfolio in recent years by rebranding the cycling squad Team Sky as Team Ineos and purchasing Ligue 1 football club Nice.
Ratcliffe’s billions originate in Ineos, a petrochemicals giant he founded in 1998, and he has been a season ticket holder at Chelsea despite being a Manchester United fan.
His sporting credentials may appeal to fans at Stamford Bridge, but the billionaire’s spokesperson sought to distance him from rumours of a takeover on Thursday.
They told Reuters that there is “no substance” to the claims.
Pakistani businessman Javed Afridi is a big name in the country’s domestic cricket scene as the owner of Peshawar Zalmi – a club who England’s Eoin Morgan, Liam Livingstone and Saqib Mahmood have all played for.
Despite his relatively young age, the 36-year-old has amassed considerable wealth as the owner of electronics company Haier Pakistan and MG Motors Pakistan.
Reports broke on Thursday in the Pakistani press, with The Week claiming a meeting between Afridi and British fixers took place on Wednesday.
It is unlikely that Afridi would be the sole buyer but he could form part of a consortium of investors.
Loutfy Mansour, 39, is the Egyptian chief executive of Man Capital, the investment arm of his family’s conglomerate which has revenues in the region of $6bn (£4.4bn).
A season ticket holder at Stamford Bridge, Mansour’s business interests – which also include McDonalds’ Egyptian franchise – appear to provide the funds required for a takeover.
It remains to be seen whether that will come to fruition, however.
The Chelsea Foundation
In the statement he issued confirming his intention to sell Chelsea, Abramovich said he was transferring “stewardship and care” of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
It is as yet unclear whether this will see his shares transferred to the trustees, or merely responsibility for managing the club’s day-to-day operations.
Chelsea’s current chairman Bruce Buck is also the chair of the Foundation’s board, while other trustees include Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes and Chelsea’s director of finance, Paul Ramos.
Abramovich’s statement did not explain why he has made the decision or if it could become permanent in the future if another owner is not forthcoming, but it is clear that operational responsibilities are being shared at present.
Al-Waleed bin Talal
Grandson of Saudi Arabia’s first king, Al Waleed bin Talal is the billionaire founder of conglomerate Kingdom Holding Company.
In 2017, Forbes estimated his net worth at just shy of $40bn, spanning investments in banking giant Citigroup and 21st Century Fox – but he has never been involved in sport before.
The 66-year-old prince was detained by Saudi authorities in 2017 in an ostensible anti-corruption drive, being released after three months when he reached a financial settlement with King Salman.
UFC legend Conor McGregor cheekily threw his hat into the ring on Thursday night, tweeting a screenshot of a WhatsApp message to an unknown recipient saying “let’s buy it”.
Like Ratcliffe, McGregor is a Manchester United supporter and expressed an interest in purchasing the club last year.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, however, the Irishman’s entrance to the fray is unlikely to come off.
Even if he was serious in his interest, his $180m of earnings in 2021 are still some way short of Abramovich’s 10-figure valuation.