A BILLIONAIRE basketball team owner has emerged as a leading contender to buy Chelsea after Roman Abramovich was hit by sanctions.
US tycoon Antony Ressler, 61, is said to have held secret talks in Memphis with representatives of the investment bank Raine Group, which is handling the sale.
Sources say it’s possible the Atlanta Hawks owner is meddling in Chelsea’s “financial side,” but no further information was forthcoming. Chelsea declined to comment.
Ressler, co-founder of private equity firm Ares Management, negotiated with Raine last year while facilitating his company’s £115m investment in US soccer club Inter Miami.
The source said last night: “Tony is keen on adding a British football team to his sporting squad and has made no secret of it but is willing to make a tough deal in negotiations. However, there are still a few other players involved.”
Former British Airways chairman Sir Martin Broughton and real estate investor Jonathan Goldstein are also the focus of potential offers.
Lifelong blues fan Sir Martin could be drafted to support bids from LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and Philadelphia 76ers basketball boss Josh Harris.
He is also in talks with several backers about his own bid as the first bids are expected by the end of this week, Sky News reported.
Sir Martin, who led the Liverpool acquisition 12 years ago, previously headed British American Tobacco and now heads Sports Investment Partners.
Mr. Goldstein, whose business empire includes Prezzo restaurants, is also part of the Boehly acquisition along with Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss.
Ministers stepped in yesterday to move on Changes to license allowing Chelsea to continue operations.
The club’s matchday home game spending has been increased from £500,000 to £900,000. The changes also include sticking with broadcasting rights and prize money, which could top £100m. The club had warned the sanctions could jeopardize their chances of finishing the season.
Whitehall sources have revealed changes could also be made to the cost to and from the fixtures, which currently stand at £20,000.
A source said: “He instructed Raine Group last year to find potential buyers and their representatives reached out to several interested parties.
“At the time, the move seemed motivated by the increase in potential buyers. But in hindsight he may have foreseen the current situation.”
The government said it could grant another license to allow the sale – once it’s satisfied where the proceeds will go.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said officials would work with the club to minimize the “impact on the leagues, the football pyramid and fans”.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/17930870/billionaire-basketball-team-owner-contender-to-buy-chelsea/ The owner of a billionaire basketball team emerges as a leading contender to buy Chelsea after sanctions hit Roman Abramovich