The sale of Chelsea has been thrown into doubt over disagreements about what will happen to the £2.5billion the club is expected to be sold for.
The consortium led by US businessman Todd Boehly is the preferred bidder to buy Chelsea, but the UK government will not allow the sale to go through unless it is completely certain Roman Abramovich will not receive any of the proceeds.
Two months ago Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale and said he would not be asking for his loans to the club to be repaid and all the proceeds would go to a charitable foundation for “all the victims of the war in Ukraine”.
Abramovich was sanctioned by the government on March 10, preventing him from doing any business in the UK.
But the sale of Chelsea is being conducted by the Raine Group, an investment bank appointed by Abramovich, and he will have the final say on who buys the club.
The government is aware of attempts to restructure any potential deal in a way which could see Abramovich receive the £1.5billion he has loaned the club through its parent company Fordstam Limited.
The government has to issue a special license for Chelsea to be sold and it would not do so if any of the proceeds were going to Abramovich or towards paying back the loans he is owed by the club.
Chelsea’s government license to operate runs out on May 31 and they are facing the prospect of going out of business unless the club is sold or the license is extended.
The Premier League are meeting on June 8 to constitute the new season, by which time Chelsea would need to have a licence to be part of the next campaign.
Chelsea and Abramovich have declined to comment.
Prospective Chelsea buyers given flexibility over debt
Chelsea bidders were told last week that they would be allowed to borrow money to finance their offers for the club.
A source close to the sale process says the advice on debt was changed at the same time as the bidders were asked to increase their offers by £500m.
The bidders are believed to have been told that there would be an element of flexibility when it came to debt.
The Glazer family bought Manchester United in 2005 in a leveraged buyout which has so far cost the club more than £1billion in interest and repayments.
Where are we with the Boehly bid?
The consortium led by Boehly is the preferred bidder to take over Chelsea and they have until the end of this week to finalise the terms of an agreement to buy the club.
The bid is already being scrutinised by the Premier League to see if it passes their owners and directors test.
Like the other bids, they have presented their extensive plans for the club to the Raine Group and they have given guarantees that they will not sell the club for at least a decade.
They have also given assurances that they will invest at least £1billion in the club and infrastructure, including redeveloping Stamford Bridge.
Where are we with the other bids?
The Sir Martin Broughton and Steve Pagliuca bids are still very much in play, with both consortiums still interested in buying the club.
They are on standby to re-enter the process if the Boehly bid is unsuccessful.
Both bids believe they have made very compelling bids for the club and both believe the club will thrive and flourish in their hands.
Who are the other bidders?
Sir Martin Broughton, the former British Airways and Liverpool FC chairman, and Lord Coe, the former British Olympian turned sports administrator and businessman, are fronting a bid that has the financial firepower of Josh Harris and Dave Blitzer, two wealthy American financiers, behind it.
Lewis Hamilton was one of the investors backing Broughton’s attempt to acquire the west London club and is understood to have committed £10m to the bid.
Tennis legend Serena Williams is also among the backers of the Broughton consortium, spearheaded by the former Liverpool chairman.
The other consortium is fronted by Steve Pagliuca, part-owner of the NBA’s Boston Celtics and Serie A’s Atalanta, which includes support from Larry Tanenbaum.
Pagliuca is a private equity billionaire who has made a fortune from his career at Bain Capital.
Among the group’s other co-investors are said to be John Burbank, founder of the San Francisco hedge fund Passport Capital, and Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder, who was the first investor in the tech behemoth.
What about the late Ratcliffe bid?
It emerged last week that Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, had tabled a last-minute £4.25billion bid to buy the west London club.
But, the consortium of LA Dodgers part-owner Boehly was still named as the preferred bidder.
Ratcliffe has not engaged in the process set out by the Raine Group, making it difficult for his bid to be considered.
Irrespective of that, his bid remains on the table and Ratcliffe is still interested in buying Chelsea.