Boehly’s plans for Chelsea: From Liverpool-style transfers to Stamford Bridge redeveloping
Chelsea are set to step into the unknown, with a Todd Boehly-led consortium set to buy the Blues from Roman Abramovich after a protracted competitive bidding process that has been going on since March.
Boehly, owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Dodgers, is expected to receive Premier League approval to complete his purchase after reaching an agreement with New York investment bank – Raine Group – which facilitated the sale.
The American billionaire, who has a net worth of around £3.3 billion ($4.4 billion), has been a popular option among Chelsea supporters due to his knowledge of the club and his success in other sports.
His cause was also helped by the fact that he was quite transparent with his proposal during the bidding process.
Of course, any owner is highly unlikely to continue running Chelsea the way Abramovich did.
With little need to run the club for profit, Abramovich injected more than £1.6 billion ($2 billion) of his personal wealth into the team to ensure the team continued to succeed on field.
Now, the Blues will have to be savvier about the transfer market and fund the business through new sources of income.
Indeed, when it comes to player recruitment, Chelsea now intend to take inspiration from Liverpool, who managed to rival Manchester City for Premier League titles by making signings specifically suited to their manager’s footballing philosophy.
In truth, while the start of the Abramovich era was undeniably wild in its approach to transfers, the Blues’ strategy is now much more mature, while the huge investment in Cobham’s academy has been paying off for years now.
Of course, while Chelsea have already started moving towards the data-driven scouting championed by Liverpool, costly mistakes are still being made in the market.
Signing Romelu Lukaku for a club-record £100m ($136m) is obviously the most egregious case, given the Belgian doesn’t fit Thomas Tuchel’s style of play at all.
As well as knowing what to do with Lukaku this summer, it is understood Boehly’s side are concerned about the number of expiring contracts among playing staff, with Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen having already told the club they will be leaving on a free. transfers this summer.
The new owners are desperate to ensure that neither Mason Mount nor Reece James will be tempted to leave Stamford Bridge, given that they are not on the kind of lucrative salaries their talent deserves.
Still, Chelsea fans will be heartened by the Boehly-led group’s awareness of all the issues that need to be addressed immediately.
That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise though, given that Boehly did his due diligence on Chelsea in 2019 when he first tried to buy the club.
Of course, in the end, his £2.2 billion ($2.75 billion) offer was rejected by Roman Abramovich, even though the Russian entertained the idea of selling after his level investment visa. 1 has been withdrawn by the UK government following a price hike. in political tensions with Russia.
At the same time, Chelsea’s ambitious £1 billion ($1.25 billion) Stamford Bridge redevelopment was shelved.
Now, with the ground one of the smallest in the Premier League, resolving this issue has been central to the process of finding a new owner.
Indeed, Boehly’s group has produced one of the most detailed redevelopment proposals and has already spoken to several architects, such as Jane Marie Smith and David Hickey, who were involved in Abramovich’s initial project.
In addition, all bidders have been asked to commit at least £1 billion to run the men’s, women’s and academy operations over the first decade of ownership.
They were also later asked to add £500m ($625m) to the sale price, which will either go to a charity linked to the ongoing war in Ukraine or be frozen in an account. government-controlled bank.
It must be said that although Boehly is the face of this offering, there is a huge list of important players behind the scenes, the most important of which is arguably Clearlake Capital, a private equity firm which funds at least 66% of the purchase. .
Behind Clearlake is co-founder Behdad Eghbali who has pledged to be an “active director” despite the scale of his other investments.
They will have a significant stake in the future of the club, but some around the process believe they will at least partly finance the leveraged buyout.
There’s also Boehly’s longtime business partner Hansjorg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who won’t play a particularly visible role but will wield significant influence, LA Dodgers principal owner Mark Walter, and British investor Jonathan Goldstein.
Overall, it’s a group that’s incredibly well-connected in the financial and political spheres.
They have brought in the services of major banks such as Goldman Sachs and Robey Warshaw, the latter having former UK Chancellor and Chelsea supporter George Osborne in an advisory role.
They will also add Chelsea fans to their board, including Danny Finkelstein, who was a member of the House of Lords and a columnist for The temperature newspaper. Alongside him is Barbara Charone, who is a powerful marketing executive in the entertainment industry.
The reason so many personalities were attracted to the offer was the simple fact that a top-notch asset doesn’t come on the market too often, with Premier League clubs becoming harder to buy, even for the richest people in the world.
Being based in London has made Chelsea an even more attractive proposition for investors, who also believe the Blues have not exploited their commercial potential as effectively as some of their ‘Big Six’ rivals.
Boehly, who spoke at the 2022 Milken Institute Global Conference during the sale, spoke about his plans to creatively monetize fans.
“You just characterize it as ‘tokenization’ because it’s digital,” he said. “But the reality is if you want to buy stock in the Green Bay Packers, that to me is ‘tokenization’.
“You have no rights, you have no control, but you can say you have an ‘interest’ in the Packers.
“I think loyalty programs, whether it’s Vivid Seats, Dodgers, Lakers, Chelsea, we’re all thinking about how we have direct relationships with customers that we can then build on.
“And if any form of that comes in the form of ‘tokenization’ then so be it, but what we really care about is direct access to our fan base.
“And if we have direct access to our fan base, [then] we can start thinking [having] lots of different levels of fans who want different products.
“So we’re starting to think a lot about what we really want to give our ‘super fans’ and how to grow the fans.”
It will be interesting to see how his ideas are received, with supporters likely to adjust their expectations of how the club will operate.
This could create more turbulence, with uncertainty already surrounding the long-term future of the board and whether it will deliver on the promises made during the negotiation process.
Yet, with the Boehly Group closing in on its takeover, the Blues are now poised to emerge from a glorious but ultimately contentious era under Abramovich.