Candy sweetens Chelsea bid as advisers decide on shortlist to buy club

The London-based property developer Nick Candy has raised his bid for Chelsea Football Club in an attempt to force his way onto a shortlist of bidders that is expected to be decided within hours.

Sky News understands that Mr Candy’s Blue Football Consortium secured additional financial backing from a new South Korea-based investor to enable him to improve his offer for last season’s Champions League-winners.

Details of the size of the new bid were unclear on Monday, although Mr Candy said the increase was “significant”, having stated ahead of last Friday’s deadline that he had submitted an offer worth more than £2bn.

Read more: Deadline for bids passes – here’s who submitted offers to buy the football club

Image: Roman Abramovich has been forced to sell Chelsea

Mr Candy commented: “This remains a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give football back to the fans and put them at the heart of the operations and strategy of Chelsea Football Club.


“We are committed to preserving the incredible legacy of the club and to promoting community involvement, and we can provide the financial stability to ensure the future growth of the club on the world stage.”

Brian Gordon, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs, the law firm advising Mr Candy’s consortium, said: “The Blue Football Consortium has access to immediate capital with funds readily available for deployment from day one.”

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Mr Gordon said the capital was “sourced from credible co-venturers whose attitude towards governance is top-rated”.

A person close to Mr Candy’s offer said that Squire Patton Boggs’ involvement was significant because the firm had “led on numerous football M&A transactions and are therefore familiar with the expectations and requirements of the Premier League in relation to the owners and directors’ test”.

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Chelsea fans ‘should be involved in ownership’

Chelsea executives and advisers from Raine Group, the New York-based merchant bank overseeing the sale, were meeting on Monday with a view to reducing the field of more than a dozen “credible” bidders to a shortlist of either two or three.

Investors who have lodged offers for the club say they expect to be notified as early as Monday evening whether they have made it through to the next stage of the process, with some parties having made bids worth around £3bn.

Raine is understood to have told the government that it intends to have a deal signed with a new owner by the end of next month, according to one Whitehall insider.

New names of potential buyers have continued to emerge since Friday’s bid deadline, with one US-based sports insider telling Sky News that Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of the US National Basketball Association, had submitted an offer with a partner.

On Sunday, The Times reported that Centricus, a London-based asset manager which counts investors from the Middle East among its backers, had also joined the field of bidders.

Sky News revealed over the weekend that parties including Goldman Sachs, which is advising a consortium led by the LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly, and Vivek Ranadive, owner of the Sacramento Kings, had also emerged as participants in the sale.

Insiders dismissed a weekend newspaper report that Mr Abramovich could seek to prevent Chelsea’s sale to investors from a country which had imposed sanctions on Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.

One source said that Mr Abramovich would have no meaningful influence over the outcome of the process, with Raine instructed to decide on a preferred bid based on a combination of price and an assessment of the best future steward of the club.

Among those whose identities have been publicly disclosed, Mr Boehly’s consortium is regarded as credible, as is a joint bid tabled by the Ricketts family and Ken Griffin, the multibillionaire behind the US hedge fund Citadel.

Image: Sebastian Coe and Martin Broughton

A separate consortium led by Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Coe – which now includes Mr Ranadive and Josh Harris, the Philadelphia 76ers shareholder – is also seen as a serious contender.

Other parties who have reportedly bid include Saudi Media Group (SMG), although the prospect of a sale to a bidder from the Gulf state is seen as exceedingly remote.

Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund already owns Newcastle United FC, and senior figures in English football have discussed the scenario that SMG could be a front for the country’s government, complicating the North East club’s ownership and ultimately forcing its disposal.

Reports have quoted sources close to the SMG bid for Chelsea as saying it has “no direct links” to the Saudi government, while the Saudi Public Investment Fund was determined by the Premier League last year not to be under state control.

Nevertheless, one club executive said a Saudi takeover would present “a nightmare” for the top flight at a time when the ownership and governance of its clubs are under unprecedented scrutiny.

The battle for Chelsea has become the most fiercely contested auction of a top-flight outfit in English football history.

A number of parties continue to believe there is at least one more heavyweight bidder whose identity has yet to emerge.

The Premier League has disqualified Mr Abramovich from being a director of Chelsea, but has said the move would not affect players’ ability to train or fulfil the club’s fixtures.

The government has amended a licence which allows Chelsea to continue operating, increasing the sum it can spend on each home match from £500,000 to £900,000 and permitting the club to receive and spend income from broadcast rights and prize money.

Chelsea’s corporate credit cards were frozen earlier this month by Barclays as the British bank sought clarity over the implications of the sanctions against Mr Abramovich, deepening the sense of anxiety surrounding the club’s finances.

A rapid sale is seen as essential if Chelsea is to remain solvent and therefore retain the nucleus of a playing squad which has become established as one of Europe’s most successful under Mr Abramovich’s ownership during the last two decades.

The government has been clear that none of the proceeds from a takeover could flow to the Russian-born billionaire.

The cluster of American sports billionaires circling Chelsea underlines the extent to which the English Premier League has become a magnet for financiers from across the Atlantic during the last 20 years.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have all been acquired by US-based businessmen during that period, and a significant number of other top-flight clubs also have American backing.

Last season’s Champions League-winners have been thrown into disarray by Russia’s war on Ukraine, with Mr Abramovich initially proposing to place the club in the care of its foundation and then formally putting it up for sale.

Mr Abramovich had initially slapped a £3bn price tag on the Stamford Bridge outfit, with the net proceeds being donated to a charitable foundation set up to benefit the victims of the war in Ukraine.

Whoever buys the club will require the government’s consent in the form of a special licence as well as the approval of the Premier League under its fit and proper ownership test.

Raine declined to comment, while Mr Tanenbaum could not be reached for comment.