Chelsea: Chicago Cubs owners confirm they will lead bid to buy club
The Ricketts family, who own Major League Baseball team the Chicago Cubs, have confirmed they are leading a group of investors which will make a bid for Chelsea by Friday’s deadline.
The Ricketts have had a majority interest in the Cubs since 2009.
BBC Sport understands the group bid also includes US hedge fund entrepreneur Ken Griffin.
Roman Abramovich’s attempt to sell the club has been halted after he was sanctioned by the UK government.
That move came in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Ambramovich understood to have strong ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A statement from the Ricketts on Wednesday said they would share further details “in due course”.
“The Ricketts Family, owners of the Chicago Cubs, can confirm they will be leading an investment group that will make a formal bid for Chelsea this Friday,” the statement read.
“As long-time operators of an iconic professional sports team, the Ricketts Family and their partners understand the importance of investing for success on the pitch, while respecting the traditions of the club, the fans and the community.”
The bid is described as “very serious” by one insider, with the family understood to have already done due diligence when they previously enquired about buying the club in 2018.
More than 20 credible parties are interested in buying the Premier League club.
Who are the Ricketts family?
The Ricketts family bought the Cubs in 2009 and renovated their Wrigley Field stadium as part of their push to create a winning team.
The Cubs won the World Series title in 2016, ending a 108-year wait and the longest title drought in the game.
It was estimated that five million people attended the Cubs’ victory parade in Chicago.
Thomas Ricketts is chairman of the Cubs, while his siblings also sit on the board.
The family also own a 25% stake in American TV network CSN Chicago.
The American investment firm tasked with selling the club expects a sale could happen by the end of March following positive conversations with the UK government.
One issue the bid already faces is that the patriarch of the family – 80 year-old Joe Ricketts – an influential figure in conservative US politics, had to apologise in 2019 for anti-Muslim comments he made in leaked emails.
A source close to the Ricketts camp told the BBC that Mr Ricketts would have no role or involvement in the bid for Chelsea, which is being headed up by his children Tom, Laura and Todd.
British businessman Nick Candy said earlier this month that he was exploring “a number of options for a potential bid”.
Abramovich had his British assets, which includes Chelsea, frozen last week and was disqualified as director of the club.
They are allowed to continue operating after a special licence was granted by the government,
The special licence also ensures Chelsea’s staff are paid and allows existing ticket-holders to attend matches, but a new licence will need to be issued for the London club to be sold.
The Russian has owned Chelsea since 2003, with the club winning 21 trophies during his tenure.
Uefa seek clarification over future Chelsea games
Meanwhile, Uefa is seeking clarification from the European Union on future Champions League matches involving Chelsea.
Abramovich was sanctioned by the EU on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s last-16 tie against Lille in France, where the Blues hold a 2-0 advantage, is set to go ahead.
“Uefa is fully committed to always implementing relevant EU and international sanctions,” Uefa said.
“Our understanding is that the present case is assessed in the context of the licence issued in the UK which allows Chelsea FC to continue minimum football activity whilst providing a safeguard that no financial gain will result for Mr Abramovich.”
Chelsea are currently allowed to play domestic fixtures under a special licence issued by the UK government, with existing ticket holders able to attend these matches.
Thomas Tuchel’s side are the current holders of the Champions League trophy after they beat Manchester City 1-0 in last year’s final.
“We will work with the EU and relevant member states to ensure we have full clarity and remain in lockstep with all relevant and applicable measures in line with latest developments.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea will avoid a 10-hour round trip by bus for their FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough on Saturday after the government increased its cap for away travel as part of the club’s operating licence.
The cap was set at £20,000 after Abramovich was sanctioned, as part of a set of conditions to allow the club to run day-to-day.
But the increase will allow the team to fly to the North East for the quarter-final tie.
Chelsea’s players and staff flew to Lille for Wednesday’s Champions League tie because it was already arranged prior to the sanctions.
A Chelsea spokesman said: “We are grateful for the government’s continued attention to our requests for amendments to the licence.”
The government has already increased spending for home matches from £500,000 to £900,000, with talks continuing over ticket, retail and merchandise revenue.