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Who is Chelsea’s owner? Who is Todd Boehly, and what happened to Roman Abramovich?

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Who is Chelsea's owner? Who is Todd Boehly, and what happened to Roman Abramovich?

American billionaire Todd Boehly and a consortium of investors officially completed their takeover of Chelsea in a deal worth $5.25 billion (£4.25 billion) back in May, in what became the most expensive team transaction in professional sports.

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The long-running saga over the Blues’ ownership was the subject of weeks of wrangling and speculation at the back end of the last Premier League season, before a deal was finally reached to sell the club to Boehly and his Clearlake Capital consortium on May 30.

The group had to wait for the green light from the Premier League and the U.K. government, which was overseeing the sale due to sanctions on outgoing owner and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.

Those sanctions were imposed just a few days after Abramovich decided to put the team up for sale in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Due to his ties with the regime of Russia president Vladimir Putin, as cited by the U.K. government, his assets were frozen and Chelsea were forced to operate under a restrictive license until a sale materialized.

Chelsea played through that turmoil, advancing to two domestic cup finals after they had already won the FIFA Club World Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. They also finished third in the Premier League in 2021/22.

The ownership situation was something of a distraction, and after that period of off-the-pitch turmoil, it was hoped that they would return to a period of stability as the Boehly era got underway.

But following the news that he has fired boss Thomas Tuchel after a poor start to the Blues’ 2022/23 Premier League and UEFA Champions League season, it seems the American billionaire is still very much working through his long-term Chelsea plan.

Who owns Chelsea?

Chelsea’s ownership consortium is led by LA Dodgers part owner Boehly. Although he is the face of the group, it is backed by investment firm Clearlake Capital, and other deep-pocketed partners, including Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, and Boehly’s Dodgers partner Mark Walter.

Boehly, a 48-year-old American businessman, is worth around $4.5 billion, according to Forbes.

He is heavily involved in U.S. sports, most notably as part-owner of Major League Baseball team LA Dodgers as a member of the ownership consortium Guggenheim Baseball Management. His personal stake in that club is reportedly at 20 percent.

Boehly notably sealed a major deal in 2013, between Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers to create SportsNet LA, a regional network to broadcast all LA Dodgers content.

He also has a minority stake in the legendary NBA basketball team LA Lakers and the Sparks, with his ownership group alongside Mark Walter buying a 27 percent stake in the combined organization.

@MirrorFootball

How much did Todd Boehly pay to buy Chelsea?

According to the numbers shared by the club in a statement published May 6, Boehly’s group purchased the club in a deal worth $5.25 billion (£4.25 million), making it the most expensive team transaction in sports history.

A total of $3.1 billion went toward taking over the shares of the club from Abramovich, with the rest invested in the club.

According to a May 24 report from Sky Sports, the terms of the deal set by Abramovich prevent Boehly and his investors from selling shares, or collecting fees or dividends from the club for a decade. There are also limits to the level of debt they can impose upon the club.

Why did Roman Abramovich sell Chelsea?

As a Russian oligarch, Abramovich came under increased government scrutiny following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and he ultimately decided on March 2 to put Chelsea up for sale with the best interest of the club in mind.

But on March 10, the U.K. government announced sanctions that essentially put a freeze on Abramovich’s assets, including Chelsea Football Club.

The Premier League side, as long as it was owned by Abramovich, could not generate new streams of income and any revenue scheduled to be received had to be frozen.

That meant that the club could not sell new tickets or merchandise, but existing agreements would continue to be met, including for season ticket holders and tickets sold prior to March 10.

The UK government offered a special sporting license in order that Chelsea could continue to operate as a football club despite the sanctions, but it set forth an exhaustive list of restrictions as part of it.

Among those restrictions were a transfer ban, with the club unable to transfer or acquire players. Also, travel expenses for football matches were capped at $26,000 per match.

Did Roman Abramovich profit from Chelsea sale?

No. As part of the U.K. sanctions leveled against Abramovich, he could not legally benefit financially from the sale of his asset Chelsea Football Club, or any other assets he owns in the U.K.

Abramovich had already confirmed his intention of donating the proceeds of the eventual sale to charity.

Chelsea confirmed that the $3.1 billion would be “deposited into a frozen U.K. bank account with the intention of donating 100 percent to charitable causes as confirmed by Roman Abramovich.”

There were reports at the time of a disagreement between Abramovich and the U.K. government on the destination of those funds, with no definitive solution shared publicly. A U.K. government approval of the sale required these issues to be worked out.

Roman Abramovich Chelsea

Who is Roman Abramovich?

Born in 1966 in Saratov, Russia, a major port city in the southwestern corner of the country, Abramovich is a Russian billionaire, most well known for his role as the former owner of Chelsea.

Abramovich gained his wealth through various investments and is known for his ability to buy and sell both businesses and various assets for profit.

The 55-year-old has made friends in high places during his career, most well-known for his friendships with former Russian president Boris Yeltsin and current president Vladimir Putin, though his camp has denied the connections to Putin in the past.

For a time, during Yeltsin’s presidency, Abramovich lived in an apartment inside the Kremlin at Yeltsin’s request. According to Richard Sakwa’s 2019 book The Crisis of Russian Democracy, it was Abramovich who first identified to Yeltsin that Putin should be his successor.

According to Forbes in 2019, Abramovich’s net worth was approximately $12.9 billion, making him the 11th richest person in Russia.

Abramovich has had his fair share of troubles over the years. In 2008, The Times reported that he allegedly paid billions of dollars in political bribes and protection fees in return for shares in Russia’s oil and aluminum assets, according to court documents.

He has also had run-ins with the Russian Antimonopoly Service, while his ownership stakes in various businesses in the steel, coal mining, and natural gas industries have seen Abramovich clash with climate change groups.

When did Roman Abramovich buy Chelsea?

Roman Abramovich first took ownership of Chelsea in June, 2003. Through a 100 percent ownership stake in U.K.-based holding company Fordstam Limited, Abramovich purchased the club from Ken Bates, who in turn went on to buy Leeds United.

Following his takeover, Chelsea won 18 trophies, including two Champions League titles, five Premier League championships, and most recently the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup.

Abramovich’s massive investment in the club built Chelsea into a perennial world power, but it came at a serious cost to the club. Chelsea was a monstrous $2 billion in debt to Abramovich, according to a report by Front Office Sports, though Abramovich did not seek to collect.

Frank Lampard, John Terry, Roman Abramovich

The Roman Abramovich era at Chelsea

During Abramovich’s reign, Chelsea grew into a perennial European and world power in club football.

Since Abramovich took over the club in 2003, Chelsea finished in the top four of the Premier League table in all but three seasons. In addition, the club collected 18 major trophies during his ownership, including two Champions League titles.

The Russian billionaire was known for his quick trigger finger when it came to managers, with Chelsea sporting 14 different head coaches during his 19 years in charge (including one stint by Rafa Benitez and two by Guus Hiddink with the ‘interim’ label).

The longest-tenured manager under Abramovich’s reign was Jose Mourinho, whose three seasons between 2004 and 2007 represent the longest stretch for any manager with Abramovich as boss.

But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich’s ownership of the club came under fire as the international community attempted to punish Russia for its actions.

Questions regarding the wartime situation and Abramovich’s involvement were beginning to weigh on the club, with Chelsea manager Tuchel admitting the situation was “distracting” in late February, before becoming increasingly frustrated with repeated questions during a press conference in early March.

Abramovich had been reportedly looking to decrease his presence in western Europe before he was ever hit by sanctions, and so the Chelsea owner decided to sell the Blues “in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.”

He initially attempted to distance the club from his issues in late February when he announced he would hand “custody and care” over to the Chelsea Foundation’s trustees, but the brief and vague statement only raised more questions than it answered. And the trustees were not necessarily willing to take on that responsibility.

Just days later, on March 2, he announced he was selling, and despite the hefty price tag, there were plenty of willing bidders who were asked to submit their offers in short order as part of a sales process managed by Raine Group on behalf of Abramovich.

According to the most recent Forbes valuation, Chelsea was worth $3.2 billion in 2021, up from $760 million back in 2012.

Todd Bohely reasons for firing Thomas Tuchel

With Abramovich gone, many Chelsea fans had high hopes for a period of immediate success under their new regime.

During the 2022/23 Premier League summer transfer window, Boehly provided significant investment to bolster Chelsea’s squad. The Blues spent upwards of £250 million ($287 million) on a host of new arrivals, including defenders Wesley Fofana and Marc Cucurella from Leicester City and Brighton respectively and forwards Raheem Sterling (from Chelsea) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (from Barcelona).

The signing of the latter in particular suggested Boehly was backing manager Tuchel, who had overseen Aubameyang at Dortmund and managed to get the best out of him, despite the striker’s previous troublesome off-the-field issues.

But on September 7, following a poor start to the Premier League season that yielded losses to Southampton and Leeds from the first six games and a 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb to open their UEFA Champions League campaign, Boehly opted to fire Tuchel.

In a statement released by the club, it was clear this was part of a change of direction.

“As the new ownership group reaches 100 days since taking over the Club, and as it continues its hard work to take the club forward, the new owners believe it is the right time to make this transition,” the statement read.

What Boehly’s long-term plan looks like for Chelsea remains to be seen.

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