A group led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner
reached a deal to acquire Chelsea Football Club from Russian billionaire
for more than £4 billion, equivalent to $4.93 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, marking a record sale price for a professional sports team.
The deal still needs approval from the U.K. government. It follows a roughly two-month auction process that attracted a who’s who of American bidders seeking to acquire the marquee sports brand.
The Wall Street Journal reported a week ago that the Boehly group beat out two other U.S.-led groups for the right to negotiate a final deal.
The Chelsea sale is a high-profile example of the financial reshuffling of Russian wealth sparked by the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Abramovich has owned Chelsea for almost 20 years, spending lavishly on players and absorbing total team losses of more than $1 billion to turn the English Premier League club into a consistent performer often competing for titles. It won last year’s Champions League, the top tournament among European clubs.
But in March, the Russian oligarch, under pressure from U.K.-imposed sanctions because of his ties to the Kremlin, put the team up for sale. U.K. government officials have closely followed the process to make sure proceeds of the sale don’t benefit Mr. Abramovich.
A significant chunk is to be earmarked for charity, with the rest expected to be invested in the club, including its stadium and women’s team.
At more than £4 billion, the price tag would surpass the $2.4 billion acquisition in 2020 of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets by billionaire hedge-fund manager
Steven A. Cohen
as the most ever paid for a professional sports team, according to Dealogic’s data on publicly announced transactions.
Chelsea, though, might not hold that title for long as the sale of the National Football League’s Denver Broncos is expected to fetch even more.
Mr. Boehly, former president of financial firm Guggenheim Partners LLC who now runs holding company Eldridge Industries, in 2019 made an offer to buy Chelsea but was rebuffed after the price fell short of the $3 billion Mr. Abramovich was seeking, the Journal reported.
In 2012, he was part of the ownership group that snapped up the Dodgers for a record $2.15 billion.
The Chelsea deal underscores the growing popularity of the Premier League among U.S. audiences. NBCUniversal, owned by
, last year agreed to pay close to $2.7 billion to extend its Premier League broadcasting rights for six years. That is close to triple the $1 billion value of the broadcaster’s current six-year deal, which expires soon.
With the Boehly group deal, U.S. investors would control more English Premier League clubs than U.K. owners, cementing their position as a dominant force in the league. They include Boston Red Sox owner Fenway Sports Group, owner of Liverpool F.C.; the Florida-based Glazer family, controlling shareholder of Manchester United F.C.; Arsenal F.C., which Los Angeles Rams owner
owns; and Aston Villa F.C., which is controlled by Fortress Investment co-founder
along with Egyptian billionaire
One rival group in the running for Chelsea was headed by
co-owner of the Boston Celtics and co-chairman of private-equity firm Bain Capital; another was led by Philadelphia 76ers co-owners and private-equity veterans
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Appeared in the May 7, 2022, print edition as ‘Group Led By Boehly Reaches Deal For Chelsea.’