The accelerated purchase of English football club Chelsea for £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion US) – the highest price ever paid for a sports team – was completed on Monday by a consortium led by Todd Boehly, co-owner of Los Angeles Dodgers.
It marked the end of the trophy-filled, 19-year tenure of Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who was forced to sell the club in March after being sanctioned by the British government for what it called empowering the Russian president. Vladimir Putin’s “cruel and barbaric invasion” of Ukraine.
The government said the proceeds from the sale will be used for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine.
“We are honored to be the new managers of Chelsea Football Club,” said Boehly. “We’re all in, 100 percent, every minute of every game.”
Chelsea has been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March. The Boehly and Clearlake Capital consortium was one of about 250 proposed buyers, the club said, and that was reduced to three final bidders.
“Many described the proposed transaction as ‘unprecedented’, and it was,” Chelsea said. “A transaction like this would normally take nine months to a year; we did it in less than three months.”
The UK government approved the sale last week after making sure Abramovich couldn’t profit from it. The proceeds will be transferred to an escrow account and then used “to support emergency relief and reconstruction in Ukraine as soon as possible,” the government said.
“Today’s change of ownership marks a new chapter for Chelsea,” the government added, “in the interest of the fans, the club and the wider football community.”
Boehly’s group has pledged to invest an additional £1.75 billion ($2.2 billion US) in Chelsea’s men’s, women’s and academy teams and infrastructure, such as the redevelopment of Stamford Bridge.
The consortium also includes Dodgers principal owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, and financing from private equity firm Clearlake.
“We are delighted to be using the resources to continue Chelsea’s leadership role in English and global football,” said Clearlake co-founders Behdad Eghbali and Jose E. Feliciano, “and drive the development of football talent.”
Funded by Abramovich’s generous investment, Chelsea’s men’s team has won 21 trophies during his ownership, including the Champions League in 2012 and 2021, and is the reigning Club World Cup champion. The women’s team won a league and cup doubles this season.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was praised in the club statement for his “patience and support” during the sales process, and he can now start recruiting his team that qualified for next season’s Champions League – via a third-place finish in the Premiership League, despite the turmoil off the field.
The club’s ability to sell match tickets and commit to spending on new players had been curtailed by the sanctions against Abramovich.