The Saudi consortium has emerged as a contender to buy Chelsea, claiming to have tabled the biggest bid yet – £2.7billion.
But there are doubts over a possible takeover which would be mired in difficulty, with any deal requiring the approval of the British government and the Premier League.
The League would have to be satisfied that there was no connection with the Saudi ruling family or with the Saudi owners of Newcastle.
Choosing a consortium based in Saudi Arabia is likely to prove extremely difficult, which is seen as a major obstacle to the Saudi Media Group-led consortium’s proposal.
Raine, the merchant bank which was tasked with selling Chelsea by Roman Abramovich, is hoping for a quick sale and the Saudi offer is likely to be complicated. Raine set Friday as the deadline for submitting bids, with the consortium of Todd Boehly, Hansjorg Wyss and Jonathan Goldstein having already submitted theirs, estimated at between £2bn and £2.5bn.
Property tycoon Nick Candy also has funds in place to bid in the region of £2.5billion and could be joined by businessman Sir Martin Broughton as part of his consortium. He is confident the sale will go through quickly once Friday’s deadline passes, telling Bloomberg: “This deal will be done well before the start of the new season.”
The Ricketts family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson are also reportedly interested.
Candy’s determination to complete a £1.5billion renovation and appoint a fan representative to the board makes her a populist choice, but the Saudi interest has the potential to leave her bid and others trail in its wake.
There has been no confirmation of the £2.7billion figure, but their intention to buy Abramovich is believed to be serious. This puts the government and the Premier League in a potentially difficult position and having to choose between the highest offer and the most suitable candidate.
Sources close to Saudi media insist they are not linked to the state or the Public Investment Fund, which owns Newcastle, but are run by Mohamed Alkhereiji, who has been photographed on several occasions with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Simply sifting through this offer could be problematic for hopes of closing the deal quickly.
Raine Group asked potential bidders to show proof of funds, with the ability to pay cash being seen as an advantage. Abramovich’s sanction last week, which saw his assets frozen, disrupted the sale, which is why today’s deadline has been extended to Friday.
Chelsea still do not have permission to sell the club, but the government will allow a deal to be struck if a request is made to change the terms of the license granted to the club to continue operating. This license runs until May 31, which underlines the urgency of finding a buyer.
Chelsea today traveled to Lille for the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tomorrow, and manager Thomas Tuchel questioned Boris Johnson’s priorities after the Prime Minister called on Chelsea fans to stop chanting Abramovich’s name.
Tuchel himself slammed the fans by singing for Abramovich during the one-minute applause for Ukraine at Burnley. But he suggested Johnson’s attention should be elsewhere.
“I don’t know if right now this is the most important topic to be discussed in parliament,” he said. “If the fan chants are going to be discussed in parliament, maybe we have to worry about the priorities of the discussions there.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea today requested that their FA Cup tie against Middlesbrough be played behind closed doors after confirming they would not be able to sell tickets for the game at The Riverside on Saturday.