British billionaire Ratcliffe courts Chelsea fans

After late bid.
Jim Ratcliffe. Image: Bloomberg
Jim Ratcliffe has moved quickly to hold talks with fans of Chelsea Football Club, as the British billionaire looks to build momentum for his late bid for the west London team.

The founder of chemicals group Ineos Group Ltd. has had early-stage discussions with the influential Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, having announced his 4.25 billion-pound ($5.3 billion) offer for the club last week.

“While the CST has had initial talks with Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his team, no further meeting is yet in the diary,” Dominic Rosso, CST’s vice chairman, said in response to Bloomberg queries on Tuesday.

Ratcliffe is mounting a last-minute challenge to former Guggenheim Partners President Todd Boehly for control of Chelsea. Boehly, one of the owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, last week emerged as the frontrunner for the football club after a months-long sale process.

Raine Group, the U.S. advisory firm handling the sale of Chelsea on behalf of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, spent weeks weighing offers from consortiums led by Boehly, British businessman Martin Broughton and Bain Capital co-chairman Stephen Pagliuca.

During that time, the bidders spent time meeting supporter groups, politicians and even former players to boost their chances of success. It remains unclear whether Ratcliffe’s bid has come too late for consideration.

The sale of Chelsea is likely to be one of the biggest-ever transactions involving a sports team. Abramovich put the club on the block in early March, shortly before the U.K. placed him under far-reaching sanctions for his ties to President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Since then, Chelsea has been running under a number of restrictions that have prevented it from selling some matchday tickets and merchandise, as well as stopped it from negotiating new player contracts. It’s operating under a special U.K. government license that expires on May 31.

Ratcliffe is worth about $11.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s no stranger to buying football clubs, having previously invested in OGC Nice of France and Switzerland’s FC Lausanne-Sport.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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