Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams have joined the bid to takeover Chelsea Football Club that is being spearheaded by former British Airways chairman Sir Martin Broughton.
The Broughton bid is one of three finalists being considered by Raine Group, a US merchant bank overseeing the auction on the behalf of Roman Abramovich, and the West London club’s board. Hamilton, the seven-times Formula 1 champion, and Williams, who has won 23 grand slams, have been in talks with Broughton and other co-investors for several weeks, as first reported by Sky News.
Both have established impressive investment portfolios in recent years, although Hamilton has often professed his love for Arsenal and cites former striker Ian Wright as a childhood hero. In January it was announced that Williams would be investing in the Los Angeles-based women’s football club Angel City alongside Eva Longoria and Natalie Portman.
Most of the financial backing from the Broughton bid will come from Josh Harris and David Blitzer, which brings an added complication as they would need to divest their minority stake in Crystal Palace to satisfy Premier League rules.
Initial reports suggested that Hamilton and William would commit up to £10million each but a spokesman for Hamilton has since told the Telegraph that the “financial figure is … inaccurate.”
Other figures behind the bid include World Athletics chief Lord Seb Coe, Canada’s Rogers family, Taiwan’s Tsai family and Colombian-American philanthropist Alejandro Santo Domingo.
Todd Boehly, who is heading up one of the rival offers, was at Stamford Bridge last night to watch the 4-2 defeat to Arsenal. The American businessman, a part-owner of the LA Dodgers, was also in attendance at the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid.
The third group hoping to complete a takeover is led by Steve Pagliuca, the biggest shareholder in Serie A club Atalanta. In a similar situation to Harris and Blitzer, the New Yorker would need to reduce his stake in the Italian side for a deal to be completed.
The deadline for final offers passed last Thursday with Raine now evaluating the merits of each one. The preferred bid will not necessarily be the most valuable as the bank and Chelsea’s board weigh up a number of other criteria to ensure the club remains capable of challenging at the very top.
It is unclear when a decision will be made but one source close to the process said that a decision could be communicated early next week. Raine will need to apply for an amendment to the goverment’s special operating licence for a takeover to proceed.
The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have indicated that the application will be granted once there are assurances that Abramovich does not receive any money from the deal. The 55-year-old has been on the government sanctions list since March 10 owing to his links with Russian president Vladimir Putin.