Since May 2022, the latest challenge facing Chelsea involves welcoming new owners after nineteen silverware-filled years under the reign of Roman Abramovich. And, inevitably, their plans for the club’s future. Todd Boehly might be the central figure in management. But he is far from being the only mind behind Chelsea’s £4.25 billion takeovers.
On the 30th of May, the club confirmed its acquisition by American businessman Todd Boehly and the Clearlake Capital consortium. Naturally, we all wish a successful journey to the club’s new custodians. However, learning what the newcomers stand for is still of prime importance.
Todd Boehly’s business background: an experienced franchise owner
As the most successful English club of the decade, Roman Abramovich leaves Chelsea in a somewhat comfortable place business-wise. Though a silverware-led club, supporters call for high expectations from the new owners to keep Chelsea dominant in the competition.
For that reason, it is positive news that Todd Boehly has a vast background in sports. Boehly is responsible for victorious businesses such as seven-time World Series winners Los Angeles Dodgers. He is also a part-owner of seventeen-time NBA champions Los Angeles Lakers and three-time Championship winners Los Angeles Sparks.
He is also co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Eldridge Industries – a company focused on creating marketing options for other businesses. Reportedly, the company’s founders built its mindset around gathering the best in their respective fields to strive in the market.
However, what is most interesting is that he tried to buy the club in 2019. That might have even been one of the factors that worked positively towards Todd successfully beating eleven other consortiums. In other words, it is not like he mindlessly came into the European football market. That is, as several of his competitors did. In 2019, Boehly made a £2.3 billion bid for the club, which the former owner, Roman Abramovich, rejected.
An innovative mentality from Chelsea’s new owners
Considering Todd’s Sportico interview from June 2021, it is safe to say that: he is an excellent team operator. And in addition to that, he also arrives at Chelsea with an innovative mindset.
An interesting parallel was in his answer to the question of the reason he enjoys engaging in the sports industry. To this question, Roman Abramovich responded: “it’s really about having fun, and that means success and trophies”. The Russian businessman was questioned by BBC almost ten years ago in mid-2012. As for Boehly, in 2021, he stated that he finds the field “intellectually stimulating”. While these statements do not indicate the capacity of either individual, it is evident that Boehly’s sports mindset is remarkable. Whether that can lead to changes in the club or not, only time will tell.
Nonetheless, another highlight statement can be “there are no shortcuts [in sports] – you have to build a foundation”. That could potentially be a turning point in Chelsea’s tradition of immediatism within the personnel. And maybe even a culture change in the excessive sacking of managers. Many fans argue that the club’s unrealistic expectations have led the club’s direction to act with poorly-thought decisions.
Furthermore, Matt Law from The Telegraph has recently reported that this immediate-decision-making tendency will not prevail at Chelsea. As of this summer, the new owners granted Thomas Tuchel complete control over transfers. That will turn Chelsea’s transfer strategy similar to rivals, such as Liverpool and Manchester City. Both of these teams have put their respective managers in charge of scouting players and negotiating contracts. That demonstrates how the new owners are committed to “make the fans proud”, as said in their open statement to fans.
The Todd effect with the LA Dodgers: what should Chelsea expect?
Amongst other factors that encourage Chelsea Supporters to warmingly welcome Todd Boehly (and Co.) is his experience with baseball’s LA Dodgers.
It is reasonable to say that the LA Dodgers’ recent history is divided into the team before and after Todd. When the team was under the management of Frank McCourt (an American entrepreneur), LA’s iconic baseball group was extremely mismanaged. That is, up to the point where the franchise filed for bankruptcy in mid-2011.
The scenario was set: the Dodgers were in turbulent financial and competitive waters. As an opportunity seeker, Todd Boehly, alongside other investors, got together and purchased the baseball team for $2.15 billion.
Their takeover was not free from controversies. However, since the new owners took over management, the Dodgers have been one of the United States most successful teams. Many classify the team’s turnaround as one of the most surprising “plot twists” in sports history.
Since the group’s takeover, the team went from competing against small-market clubs to surpassing the New York Yankees as the sport’s biggest spenders. Besides reinvesting in their stadium’s redevelopment, clinical investments in athletes managed them to win their first title after 32 years with the 2020 World Series conquest.
If the new owners plan on taking the Dodgers’ business strategy as an example, it might suit the Blues just fine.
Boehly’s LA Dodgers partner and Chelsea’s co-owner, Mark Walter
Alongside Todd Boehly, Mark Walter is a co-owner of Los Angeles’ LA Dodgers. Other businesses the duo has performed together include buying a 27% share of the Los Angeles historic Lakers team.
Additionally, Walter is the controlling owner of the LA Dodgers, as well as a proud philanthropist. He is the person responsible for running the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation.
According to Forbes, he has a net worth of approximately $4.4 billion. He is a founder of the Guggenheim Partners group – which besides himself, includes Todd Boehly, tennis legend Billie Jean King, and LA Lakers’ Magic Johnson, among others. The organisation has over $170 billion in assets under management.
Ten years ago, in 2012, SportsBusiness Journal named Walter the eighth most influential person in sports business due to his management practices with the LA Dodgers. Hopefully, his methodology used in baseball is as effective when translated to football.
Besides his work with finances and sports, as per the LA Dodgers website, Walter and his family heavily invest their fortune in social justice matters, such as “closing the opportunity gap” for low-income youth, saving endangered species and preserving wild places”.
Who is Clearlake Capital? What is their relation to Chelsea’s new custodians?
The media-peripheric part of the consortium, Clearlake Capital, is owned by billionaire co-founders José E. Feliciano and Behdad Eghbali. According to Financial Times, they grew close to Todd Boehly while operating another business bid in the United States. The California-based company is funding almost half of the purchase price.
However, the Clearlake billionaire duo are not financing the buyout with personal wealth, as Roman Abramovich used to do in the past. Instead, they are getting the resources from the organisation’s private equity funds, meaning that investments will not flow into the club as they once did with Roman. However, financial contributions can also come from other institutions by adding more financial partners.
Further, the group is a high-profile organisation. They manage over $72 billion of assets and participate in over 300 investment accounts. Their headquarters is in California, US, with affiliates in England and Ireland.
Swiss billionaire, Hansjorg Wyss: Chelsea’s pragmatic, experienced “new” owner
Besides Todd Boehly and the Clearlake Consortium, two other billionaires make up the final part of the Consortium of Chelsea’s new owners who led the biggest deal in English football. One of them, Hansjorg Wyss, is a Swiss billionaire. He is popular for being one of the most important donors to Democrats advocacy groups in the United States.
Moreover, he earned most of his money in the medical manufacturing business after selling Synthes Holding AG to American multinational Johnson and Johnson in 2012 for approximately £15 billion. At 86 years old, he is still active in his work with pharmaceuticals innovative research. He recently received the 2022 Gallatin Award by the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce in May. People receive the award every three to four years, to those who work on uniting Switzerland and the United States through business and other partnerships.
Forbes described him in 2017 as “one of the most philanthropic people in the world”. The Wyss Foundation, created by Wyss, is heavily invested in promoting conservation, environmental issues. Lastly, he is also the owner of Halter Ranch winery in California, a business rival to the Kroenke’s California winery, Screaming Eagle.
Jonathan Goldstein: the final component of Chelsea’s new owners
Regarding Chelsea’s buyout, Wyss took a pragmatic standpoint from the beginning. In an interview with the news outlet Blick in March 2022, he stated that he would not be doing this alone, only if he joined other investors to buy the club.
As for Jonathan Goldstein, the last party in the Boehly-led Consortium, the real estate agent is a former chair of the Jewish Leadership Council and a long-term partner to Todd Boehly. He is a co-founder of Cain International, an investment company (that focuses on real estate and business). Currently, they hold nearly £15 billion in assets.
According to the Daily Mail, Goldstein was part of Boehly’s previous attempts to take over Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. Goldstein, a London-based property investor, is originally a Spurs fan.
Chelsea’s new owners mean new administration?
Media rumours once stated that Jonathan Goldstein would be the successor to Bruce Buck’s position as chairman. However, a report from The Times’ Matt Lawton dismantled these rumours. These read that Goldstein would not join the boardroom (at least for the moment) due to his affiliation with Tottenham.
Moreover, Financial Times reported that both Bruce Buck and Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia received offers to keep their positions at the club. However, the duo has yet to decide to agree upon he proposal. Both of them could depart after the full ownership transition is completed.
Doubt on whether they will remain in their positions at Chelsea arose when The Times reported that Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali would be the ones attending the Premier League annual meeting instead of the Abramovich-era duo.
Furthermore, the bank Raine, responsible for the Chelsea sale, publicly stated that Buck and Granovskaia are fundamental in running the club. which is one of the reasons most bidders affirmed that they were keen on maintaining them in their current positions. Nonetheless, a decision is still overdue. If Bruce and Marina do leave the club, for good and bad, transformations are bound to occur.
Blues boss Thomas Tuchel is a firm supporter of Marina Granovskaia preserving her position at the club, alongside Technical And Performance Advisor Petr Cech. When asked about the new direction, the gaffer stated: “I can only tell you until now it was an excellent relationship that worked so well for me. Hopefully, it will stay like this, but I do not influence it. No information if it will”.
What should supporters demand from the new owners?
Finally, the hard work starts before the actual season begins. As new owners, there are several issues that the Consortium needs to address to guarantee the best interest of the club’s supporters and protect Chelsea’s heritage.
Should Stamford Bridge’s long-due renovation be the new custodians’ priority?
For instance, as different groups were still competing for the club’s ownership, Boehly’s Consortium contacted David Hickey, the architect responsible for Stamford Bridge’s renovation in the Abramovich era, and architect Jane Marie Smith. The stadium’s redevelopment has been a controversial subject for a while, with several fans arguing against its alteration.
The Bridge has the lowest fan capacity amongst the top six clubs in the Premier League, allowing 41,837 people per game. Jonathan Goldstein is said to be one of the central enthusiasts of Stamford Bridge’s renovation due to his background in property development.
One of the main arguments from those who defend the stadium’s redevelopment is that the club is bound to fall behind rivals in revenue. Due to the Bridge’s relatively low spectator capacity, the club’s dependency on broadcasting and sponsorship increases.
However, the issue of falling behind on matchday revenue does not rely exclusively on the stadium’s capacity. Despite being the grounds with the less fan capacity in comparison to rivals, Chelsea still loses on matchday revenue due to unsold tickets. The vast majority of people might believe Manchester City are the one who loses the most money on stadium attendance, but the West London Blues suffer way more from this issue than the Cityzens.
A potential reason for this low attendance might be ticket prices. As representatives of several members of Chelsea’s fanbase, The Chelsea Supporters Trust mentioned the commitment to the new owners to freeze ticket prices for 2022/23 – attempting to avoid pricing out supporters.
Chelsea’s new owners must investment on the Women’s team and on the Academy
As for team performance investments, Boehly and the Consortium should continue the work developing the Women’s team and the Academy team in the same way Roman Abramovich once did. Thanks to the former administration’s care and investment (and, of course, Emma Hayes’ incredible talent), Chelsea Women achieved three consecutive WSL titles and a FA Cup double.
Fortunately, on meeting Todd in early May, Emma Hayes commented: “I had lunch with Todd. He watched the girls train and had a really lovely couple of hours with him. (He was) delightful, really passionate, he’s just a normal, down-to-earth guy, really passionate about Chelsea, loves Chelsea”. Most importantly, she mentioned that: “he’s as ambitious as we are”. That might as well be what we call a perfect fit.
As for the Academy, the new owners should also maintain plans to keep investing in a top-quality Academy that can provide internal solutions (as the examples of Mason Mount and Reece James) as a priority. That is, especially with FIFA’s new policy of limiting the number of players teams can loan each season – a modification that is likely to impact Chelsea’s current strategy. After all, the club has over thirty players on loan.
Lastly, there is much to be done to make Chelsea dominant in England and Europe again. Nonetheless, if. Chelsea’s new owners’ experience mean anything, it is safe to say we should be in good hands.
Written and edited by Maria Dulce (@usernamedulce)
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