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Chelsea desperate for quick takeover after warning club on ‘borrowed time



Exclusive: May 31 is the date when the government licence granted to the club runs out, with no guarantees over what happens afterwards

Chelsea Stamford Bridge sale
The Todd Boehly group is the preferred bidder for the club
Chelsea are taking very seriously the Government’s renewed warning that May 31 is a hard deadline for the sale of the club beyond which there is no guarantee they will be able to compete in the Premier League or Uefa competitions next season.

The preferred bidder was identified by Raine Group, the merchant bank handling the sale process, as the Todd Boehly consortium including Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and US private equity group Clearlake Capital, with the emphasis on a sale process being completed rapidly.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries said in a BBC interview on Friday that the club were on “borrowed time”.

May 31 marks the expiration of the government licence granted to the club to run the sale process in concert with the sanctions imposed on current owner Roman Abramovich, and beyond that there is the real possibility that Chelsea will no longer be permitted to operate if the Russian is still in charge.

Raine Group has told the Boehly consortium that it is the preferred bidder in spite of the attempt by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, to launch a later counter bid with a package offering £2.5 billion to Abramovich and a further £1.75 billion pledged for investment.

Now the race is on for Boehly and his fellow consortium members to agree the details of the deal over the next week. Speaking to the BBC on Friday morning, before Ratcliffe announced his bid, Dorries was asked about the club’s situation. “The sanctions apply during the sale,” she said. “But what I will say is that Chelsea is very much on borrowed time at the moment. There is a very short window left for that sale to take place. It has to happen soon.”

Chelsea are operating under strict licence conditions under the “Russia regulations” sanctions governing everything from the sale of tickets, to merchandise, to payroll. But they face a cliff edge after May 31, after which they would potentially be unable to pay staff salaries and would certainly be unable to trade players in the summer transfer window.

The late intervention of Ratcliffe at the tail end of the process in which representatives of the competing bids were in London last week to meet the club’s executives surprised all three of the bidders still left in the process. Ratcliffe’s emphasis that the offer from his petrochemical giant Ineos was “the only British bid” was interpreted as an appeal over the heads of Raine to the British Government, which has a veto in the sale process. It is unlikely to hold much sway with Abramovich and his advisers.

The Premier League has looked informally at all three bids to go the distance but only now will it begin the full owners’ and directors’ test on the Boehly consortium as per section F of the Premier League’s rulebook

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