Chelsea sale ‘at risk’ as ministers pressure Roman Abramovich for new guarantees | football news
Chelsea’s £4.25bn takeover has been called into question amid a new standoff between owner Roman Abramovich and Whitehall over the terms of the deal.
sky news he understands that government officials have doubts about whether a special license needed to approve the sale will be issued before the deadline at the end of the month.
People close to the discussions say ministers have not yet received the assurances they seek from Abramovich on the fate of the proceeds from the £2.5bn sale.
Without an agreement before deadlines from various footballing authorities, Chelsea could be banned from club competitions next season or even face renewed threat from management.
People close to the situation warned that it remained fluid and a license could still be issued before the end of the month, ensuring Chelsea start next season under new management.
The oligarch and his advisers reached a binding agreement earlier this month with a group majority-funded by Clearlake Capital, a California investment firm, and headed by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly.
The sale would close the curtain on Abramovich’s 19-year tenure as owner of Chelsea, which lost to Liverpool on penalties in Saturday’s FA Cup final.
The Blues have been operating under a government license since Abramovich was sanctioned in March, prompting a quick auction that has attracted billionaires from around the world.
Officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have been in talks with the club and Mr Abramovich about a new license so as not to speed up the sale.
On Monday, officials said they remained concerned about the fate of a £1.5bn loan to the club’s parent company by Abramovich.
The government sanction on Mr Abramovich means he currently does not have access to the funds needed to repay a £1.54bn loan that the club’s parent company, Fordstam, owes to Camberley International Investments, a vehicle associated with the oligarch.
The loan is believed to be repayable with the sale of Chelsea.
‘Crucial week’ for negotiations
Before being placed on the sanctions list in March, Abramovich said he intended to pay off the £1.5bn loan to the club and hand over the net proceeds from the sale to a new foundation set up to benefit victims of the crisis. war in Ukraine. .
Although he has insisted this remains the case, officials say they have not received sufficient guarantees or binding legal commitments from the current owner.
“Without that, the license will not be issued,” said one.
They added that this would be “a crucial week” for the negotiations.
The renewed risk of the sale may prompt George Osborne, the former chancellor, to try to pave the way to its completion.
The firm where Osborne now works, Robey Warshaw, is advising the Boehly-Clearlake consortium.
Abramovich has reached a binding agreement that sees the new owners pay £2.5bn to acquire his shares, while pledging a further £1.75bn investment in his stadium, academy and women’s team.
Sky News recently revealed that the terms of the acquisition would prevent Boehly and his fellow investors from paying dividends or collecting management fees for a decade.
The measures were described as a package of “anti-Glazer clauses” designed to head off the controversies that have dogged Manchester United since the Glazers took power in 2005.
The new owners will also be barred from selling club shares for ten years, as well as agreeing to strict limits on the level of debt they can take on.
The Glazer family’s £790m takeover of Manchester United saddled the club with costly debt known as payment-in-kind notes, and provided a focal point for fan protests, which intensified in the wake of the Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013.
Manchester United went public on the New York Stock Exchange a decade ago, and the Glazers reaped hundreds of millions of pounds in dividends and from the sale of shares during their ownership.
The Premier League still has to approve the acquisition
Chelsea’s takeover remains subject to approval by the Premier League and the issuance of a special license from the government.
That’s expected in the next two weeks, though people close to the deal have warned it’s not yet certain to happen.
Abramovich is said to be determined to donate at least £2.5bn to a new foundation benefiting war victims, with a demand in the latter stages of the auction for bidders to raise their bids by at least £500m. of pounds sterling.
The rivals to the Clearlake-Boehly bid were a consortium led by Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca and Larry Tanenbaum, NBA president and owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs; and one run by Sir Martin Broughton, former chairman of British Airways and Liverpool FC, reportedly involving Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns a stake in Premier League side Crystal Palace and a number of US sports teams. , with a majority share.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the Ineos Group tycoon, was also a latecomer to the process, although his approach was rejected by Abramovich’s advisers.
Uncertainty over club ownership is already being blamed for the departure of key players, including Antonio Rudiger, the German central midfielder.
Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003 and has built the club into one of the best teams in Europe, with 19 major trophies won under his stewardship.
The DCMS declined to comment.