British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s late £4.25 billion bid for Chelsea came in lower than the offers tabled by the three US-led consortiums, a senior source close to the process has claimed.
Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest men, attempted to hijack the process on Thursday — only days after the three selected bidders had made their final presentations.
By Friday evening it had emerged that the group fronted by Todd Boehly, the American billionaire and co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, had been identified by Chelsea and their New York-based bankers as the preferred bidders who will be presented to the UK government and the Premier League for approval.
The Times can reveal that they have been granted a five-day period of exclusivity in which to fulfil any outstanding contractual requirements.
Ratcliffe, however, has not given up trying to force his way into the sale, and is understood to be lobbying the government on the grounds that his is the only solely British bid.
Regardless, a source has said his efforts have already been dismissed by Chelsea and the Raine Group, the merchant bank which was appointed by Roman Abramovich to find a new owner.
They make the point that Ratcliffe made the offer without any due diligence, and question the Manchester United fan’s right to claim he is the sole British bidder when he resides in the tax haven of Monaco.
It is understood Ratcliffe, 69, was approached two months ago and said then that the price on offer was too expensive.
He has now made an offer, meeting what he believed was Abramovich’s valuation of £2.5 billion with a commitment to provide a further £1.75 billion for stadium redevelopment and investment in the playing squad at Stamford Bridge.
But the offers tabled by the rival bid groups, in response to a late request from Abramovich to increase their offers by £500 million, means they were already closer to £3 billion for the club alone prior to Ratcliffe’s intervention.
While the groups led by the former British Airways chairman, Martin Broughton, and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca have not been formally told their bids have been unsuccessful, they too believe the Boehly group — which is principally funded by US investment firm Clearlake Capital and supported by Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, British property investor Jonathan Goldstein and Tory peer and Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein — has preferred bidder status.
Insiders with knowledge of the process still believe that there are some significant hurdles to overcome, not least whether the treatment of the £1.54 billion loan owed to Abramovich will be to the satisfaction of treasury officials. Abramovich said he would write off the loan, but government sanctions have prevented the Russian oligarch from doing so.