British government approves sale of Chelsea Football Club : NPR

American businessman Todd Boehly, centre, applauds as he watches the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge stadium in London on Sunday May 22, 2022.

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American businessman Todd Boehly, centre, applauds as he watches the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge stadium in London on Sunday May 22, 2022.

Alastair/AP Grant

LONDON (AP) — Roman Abramovich’s 19-year ownership of Chelsea comes to an end after the British government approved the sanctioned Russian oligarch’s sale of the Premier League club to a consortium led by the Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner, Todd Boehly.

The government needed to ensure that Abramovich, who was sanctioned for his links with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine, did not profit from the forced sale of the club which his investment turned into one of the most successful in European football.

The reigning FIFA Club World Cup winners and 2021 European champions will be sold for 2.5 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) – the highest price ever for a sports team – with Premier League approval already granted on Tuesday.

Chelsea have been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and it expires on May 31.

“Given the sanctions we have imposed on people linked to Putin and the bloody invasion of Ukraine, the club’s long-term future can only be secured by a new owner,” the UK secretary told Culture, Nadine Dorries. “We are confident that the proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or other sanctioned persons.”

There were weeks of talks between Chelsea officials and the government to secure guarantees that Abramovich could not win financially. Proceeds from the sale will first go to a frozen account before going to charity.

“We will now begin the process to ensure that proceeds from the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of war,” the UK government said in a statement. “The actions taken today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community.”

Delays in approving the sale centered on the 1.6 billion pound ($2 billion) spell on loan to Chelsea from Abramovich since 2003, which provided the funding to build a men’s team that won 21 trophies while in possession. Government assurances were needed from Abramovich, who did not condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine, regarding cancellation of debt related to companies he controlled.

Boehly has already started attending Chelsea games in recent weeks since the club approved the sale to the consortium which also includes Dodgers main owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and funding from private equity firm Clearlake. Capital.

It was a hotly contested sale process, with four groups in contention, before Boehly’s group was chosen on May 7 after securing 1.75 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) of investment in the team.

Chelsea fans have grown accustomed to lavish spending under Abramovich, with more than $1 billion net spent on players.

Chelsea’s ability to sell match tickets and commit to new player spending has been hampered by the sanctions, but the new owner is now expected to provide manager Thomas Tuchel with an investment to bolster the squad.

The certainty is that Chelsea will play the Champions League next season after finishing third in the Premier League last Sunday despite the turmoil off the pitch. The women’s team won a league and cup double with a team funded by Abramovich’s investment.

Chelsea had only won the men’s league once – in 1955 – when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Aided by expensive signings, the club won the Premier League two years later and added four more since then, most recently in 2017.

Investment is needed at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have the smallest and most dated stadium of the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with plans to rebuild the 41,000-seater site put on hold by Abramovich in 2018 when Anglo-Russian diplomatic tensions deepened .

Chelsea’s $3.1 billion cost dwarfs the $2.3 billion paid in 2018 for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

In addition to co-ownership of the MLB Dodgers, Boehly also owns minority stakes in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

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