MANCHESTER (Reuters) – British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, linked with a possible purchase of Chelsea Football Club, is not interested in buying the team from Russian owner Roman Abramovich, a spokesman for his company INEOS told Reuters on Thursday.
British media reports had said that Ratcliffe was considering a bid for Chelsea but the spokesman told Reuters: “There is no substance to the stories.”
Abramovich said on Wednesday he would sell Chelsea Football Club, 19 years after buying the Premier League team, amid calls in Britain for sanctions against him following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ratcliffe, chairman of chemical company INEOS, currently owns French club OGC Nice and the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team, has been linked with Chelsea in the past.
“Right now his focus is on OGC Nice which made it to the final of the French Cup to be played in Paris at the beginning of May,” said the spokesperson.
Abramovich’s decision to put Chelsea up for sale offers a rare chance to purchase a top Premier League club but soccer industry experts suggest it may not be a straightforward sale.
Forbes magazine valued Chelsea at $3.2 billion and ranked them the seventh most valuable club in the world but below English rivals Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City.
In December, Chelsea announced losses of £145.6 million. They made a profit of £39.5 million the previous year after losses of £102 million in the 2019-20 season.
Chelsea’s most recent accounts said they are “reliant on Fordstam Limited for its continued financial support”. Fordstam is the entity through which Abramovich owns Chelsea and through which he has loaned the club £1.5 billion.
In his statement on Wednesday, the Russian said: “The sale of the Club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process. I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid”.
But the sale may not be a straightforward matter says Rob Wilson, football finance expert at Sheffield Hallam University.
“The complexity of the ownership of the club, the soft loans provided by the current owners, ongoing losses and commitments to player contracts mean that any sale of Chelsea is unlikely to be plain sailing,” he told Reuters.
“The write off, or not, of the £1.5bn in loans to Abramovich is the biggest point of contention. Will that really be written off? Converted to equity or bought as part of the acquisition. All questions that need to be answered,” he said.
There has been increasing interest in the Premier League from American investors with both Manchester United and Liverpool owned by U.S backers but one U.S based soccer investment source said simply “It depends on the price”.
On Wednesday, Swiss business tycoon Hansjoerg Wyss said he was one of three people who had been approached by Abramovich to buy the club.
“Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly now. I, along with three other people, received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich,” Wyss told Swiss newspaper Blick.
Wyss said he would not consider purchasing Chelsea alone.
“If I buy Chelsea, it will be with a consortium of six or seven investors,” he said.
Reports have suggested that American Todd Boehly, co-owner of the LA Dodgers baseball team, could be part of such a consortium.
Boehly, is founder and CEO of Eldridge Industries and was reported to have made an attempt to buy Chelsea in 2019. Eldridge did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Alison Williams and Pritha Sarkar)