Mar 18, 2022 - Sports

Inside the bidding war for Chelsea FC

A Chelsea FC logo with a pound sign instead of an L
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

First-round bids are due today for Chelsea FC, the Premier League soccer club that's being sold by sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Why it matters: This will be the highest-profile, fastest and most complex sports team sale ever.

  • It also may be the most competitive. For every prospective bidder you've read about, I'm told there's at least one you haven't. This includes a bunch of folks who've never before sniffed at a pro sports team.

Profile: Chelsea is a top club in the middle of the biggest market in the best league in the world's most popular sport. There's just no historical comp. Maybe if the Clippers or Mets were the Lakers or Yankees, but they aren't. And there's no expectation that another London team will be on the block again for at least a decade.

Speed: It's been just two weeks since Abramovich said he'd sell the team, and first bids are already due. Normally, that would be at least a multiple-month process. And don't be surprised if the second round is a very fast follow.

Complexity: The British government is playing a major role here, although its interest in securing a U.K. owner is said to be overstated. Instead, its prime interest is getting this done quickly and without too much drama, which means past controversies will work against prospective bidders.

  • There's also the matter of where proceeds will go, as Abramovich has pledged them to charity. Or, more specifically, how they will get routed to a charity without first violating the sanctions.
  • It's also not entirely clear who picks the winner. Abramovich? The government? Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck? Or Raine Group, which was charged with managing the process? A combination of two or three of those?

The bottom line: As you all know, first prize is Chelsea. Anybody wanna see second prize? Second prize is the Denver Broncos, if you want it. Third prize is you’re buying tickets like everyone else.

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