Wyoming billionaires in bidding war for legendary football club Chelsea
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., WyofileName
Two billionaire landowners from Wyoming are in the running to buy London’s legendary Chelsea Football Club.
Hansjorg Wyss and Joe Ricketts are each part of different consortia who are on the shortlist of four groups approved for an auction to buy the English Premier League side.
Wyss, a Teton County landowner, joins a group led by Todd Boehly that includes three others, according to Sports Illustrated. Boehly is a 20% owner Los Angeles Dodgers, among other sports, media and philanthropic ventures. Swiss businessman Wyss founded a medical device company and is an environmentalist and philanthropist.
Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, also owns the Jackson Fork Ranch in Bondurant where he recently won approval for a zoning change allowing him to build a posh retreat for guests. The 64-room complex was needed to generate income, Ricketts said, so he could pass ownership to his grandchildren who otherwise “don’t have the money to invest.”
The two families’ properties in Wyoming are roughly equidistant from the Hoback Junction traffic circle. Wyss’s house is about 18 miles northwest of the roundabout, Ricketts about the same distance to the southeast.
Their political leanings are more distant – Wyss characterized as a supporter of liberal causes, Ricketts a GOP donor.
The frantic competition to snatch Chelsea – a world-renowned sporting firm – has drained barrels of ink from newsrooms from Fleet Street to Wall Street. The shooting appeared on the front pages, sports pages and websites of publications including Sports Illustrated, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Chelsea Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal and The Mirror. The media scrum painted a picture of a distress sale moving faster than a breakaway from Chelsea star striker Romelu Lukaku.
But whether Christian Pulisic or Kai Havertz become household names at Bondurant’s Elkhorn Bar and Trading Post, in the same way as they are in the shops and cafes of Fulham, is another matter.
The auction is conducted by The Raine Group, an international investment bank, after Russian owner Roman Abramovich put the club on the market. The UK sanctioned him after Russia invaded Ukraine, a move that could prevent Abramovich from profiting from the sale.
Bids from all four groups are due April 11. The successful party will take control of the club by the end of April, according to widespread reports.
Already the offer of the owner of the New York Jets, Woody Johnson, estimated at around 2.6 billion dollars, failed to win it the team, the Mirror reported. Raine Group warned bidders not to turn the auction into a publicity contestaccording to The Telegraph.
This can be difficult in the heavily guarded arena of Stamford Bridge. Every aspect of the bidders’ characters is selected by fans and the global press.
This includes the Ricketts, who had to deflect criticism over a 3-year-old accusation that Joe Ricketts made anti-Muslim statements in a series of emails. Family rejects “all forms of hatred”, reports the Guardian. A Chicago Muslim civil rights organization supported Joe Ricketts’ sonTom Ricketts, in his efforts to spread bad press.
Fans weren’t convinced, wrote The Guardian. But the family remain in the bidding despite a backlash from blue supporters pushing a #NoToRicketts campaign.
The Premier League is sensitive to racial prejudice. The league’s 20 teams begin games by taking a knee to show their support for equality.
In the meantime, Wyss’ partner Boehly may have boosted his group’s chances, wrote Sports Illustrated columnist Nick Emms. It comes from the Dodgers re-signing struggling outfielder Andrew Toles, a move that ensures the player will have health insurance and access to therapists.
Emms called the signature “a fantastic gesture” which could boost Chelsea’s takeover bid.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky added to the interest in the fortunes of current Chelsea owner Abramovich when he asked the United States not to sanction the Russian because of his potential. role in peace negotiationsaccording to the Wall Street Journal.
Chelsea are third in the Premier League, the top tier of English football, with a 28-17 record behind leaders Manchester City and second place Liverpool. The name Liverpool brings back memories of another Wyoming entrepreneur, George Gillett, whose family business bought the Grand Targhee Resort and ski area in 1997.
Gillett owned Liverpool from 2007 to 2010.