The bidding process to buy Chelsea football club could descend into farce with rival groups furious with what they perceive to be preferential treatment towards the Ricketts family’s bid, according to reports.
After being sanctioned by the UK government over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Roman Abramovich enlisted US merchant bank Raine Group to oversee the sale of the west London club he has owned since 2003.
Raine received a host of offers but whittled it down to a four-strong shortlist which features controversial prospective owners the Ricketts family, as well as consortiums led by Todd Boehly, Sir Martin Broughton and Stephen Pagliuca.
It had briefly appeared as though the Ricketts bid would not make the final cut, having received a backlash from supporters when anti-Muslim comments from the family’s patriarch, Joe, resurfaced.
But not only did the Ricketts family’s bid get through to the next stage of the selection process, The Times claims rival bidding groups fear the owners of the Chicago Cubs are now the preferred choice of Raine to buy Chelsea.
One of the shortlisted consortiums even feel rules of the bidding process might have been ‘breached’ after Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck set up a meeting between Tom Ricketts and Paul Canoville.
The former Chelsea player – the club’s first black player – had called for the Ricketts family’s bid to be rejected by Raine when Joe’s Islamophobic remarks resurfaced, having initially been made in emails leaked to the US media in 2019.
Tom Ricketts, Joe’s son, reached out to Buck to broker the meeting with Canoville and they met last Thursday with the Chelsea chairman also in attendance, but the rival consortiums feel this goes against the strict instructions they were given not to lobby Chelsea’s three-person executive team.
That body, who will work with Raine to decide the preferred bidder, consists of Buck and Chelsea directors Marina Granovskaia and Eugene Tenenbaum.
Chelsea insist Buck did not play an active part in the meeting, but the rival bidders feel his intervention to help the Ricketts family ‘cleanse their reputation’ goes against the rules of the process.
They are also getting the growing feeling that the Ricketts are the preferred choice of buyer and are increasingly ‘nervous’ about their chances of winning the race to buy Chelsea due to the pre-existing, strong business relationship that already exists between the family and Raine Group.
The Ricketts family joined up with Raine to form a special purpose acquisition company in November 2020 which included the possibility of acquiring a sports team in the future.
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