Sport

Soccer-Binance CEO declined to buy Chelsea – Spokesperson

FILE PHOTO: Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao speaking at Delta Summit, Malta's official blockchain and digital innovation event promoting cryptocurrency, in St. Julian's
FILE PHOTO: Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao speaks at the Delta Summit, Malta’s official blockchain and digital innovation event promoting cryptocurrency, in St Julian’s, Malta October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

March 8, 2022

By Tom Wilson, Krystal Hu and Simon Evans

LONDON (Reuters) – The chief executive of crypto exchange Binance discussed buying Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s Premier League football club Chelsea, but has ruled out such a deal, a Binance spokesman told Reuters.

Changpeng Zhao spoke to Raine Group, the US investment bank representing Chelsea in the sale, but declined to go ahead with the sale because owning a football club is not one of his priorities, the spokesman said.

Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale last week after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked an international backlash against businessmen with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Abramovich has denied having any such connections.

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has several ties to the football world. It sponsored the Africa Cup of Nations tournament and also sponsored the Argentina national team and Italian Serie A club Lazio.

Raine didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Chelsea, current European and Intercontinental Cup winners, declined to comment on the sale.

Abramovich expects the west London club to raise more than £3 billion ($4 billion), people familiar with the matter have said. Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 for a reported £140million.

The sale has attracted interest from interested parties including US billionaire Todd Boehly, who owns shares in the LA Dodgers baseball club and the LA Lakers basketball team. Boehly has teamed up with Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss in a bid, sources said. Boehly and Wyss declined to comment.

Mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor has also publicly expressed interest in buying the club.

Sources have said it could take around a month to agree to a sale with a winning bidder. Abramovich said the proceeds from the sale will be used to support victims of the war in Ukraine.

Raine also advised Binance, which handles billions of dollars worth of transactions each month, on its $200 million investment in US media giant Forbes last month.

($1 = 0.7631 pounds)

(Reporting by Tom Wilson in Londo, Krystal Hu in Beijing and Simon Evans in Manchester; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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