Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe Bids $5.3 Billion for Chelsea F.C.

Jim Ratcliffe, a billionaire industrialist and one of Britain’s richest men, has made a $5.3 billion offer to buy Premier League soccer team Chelsea, a fee that would be the highest ever paid for a sports franchise.

“We are making this investment as fans of the beautiful game — not as a means to turn a profit,” Ratcliffe said in a statement issued by his petrochemicals business, Ineos, confirming his pursuit of Chelsea. “We do that with our core businesses. The club is rooted in its community and its fans. And it is our intention to invest in Chelsea F.C. for that reason.”

Ratcliffe’s enormous offer for the West London club — which dwarfs at least three other multibillion-dollar offers already under consideration — caps a tumultuous and dizzying few weeks for Chelsea. Its owner, Roman Abramovich, was forced into selling the team when he was placed under crippling sanctions for his association with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Under Abramovich, Chelsea has become one of the biggest and most successful teams in global soccer. That has come at a huge cost, with the team losing about $1 million a week since Abramovich, then an unknown Russian businessman, took control of the London team in 2003.

Ratcliffe has suggested he would be willing to do the same, with an offer that will almost certainly be out of reach of the three bidders being considered by the New York-based merchant bank Chelsea has enlisted to handle the sale. Ratcliffe’s arrival has upended that process, but could likely make the sale speedier than it would have been.

Any sale would require the approval of both the British government and the Premier League.

Ratcliffe, a self-described fan of Chelsea’s Premier League rival Manchester United since his school days, is worth $10.6 billion, according to index of the world’s richest people compiled by Bloomberg. Chelsea would not be Ratcliffe’s first foray into sports investment, or even soccer. He owns the French professional soccer club OGC Nice, located close to his home in Monaco, and also F.C. Lausanne-Sport, a team in Switzerland. But purchasing Chelsea would be of a different magnitude altogether. He has pledged to retain the team’s place among the world’s elite teams.

“We believe that London should have a club that reflects the stature of the city,” Ratcliffe said. “One that is held in the same regard as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. We intend Chelsea to be that club.”

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