Chelsea look to be a target for Britain’s richest man, with reports that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is out to buy the Blues on top of his takeover of cycling’s Team Sky.
Petrochemicals billionaire Ratcliffe was expected to confirm Tuesday that he has bought Team Sky, which will then be known as Team Ineos, with Dave Brailsford still at its head.
Sky announced in December that it was ending its funding of the team at the end of 2019, but The Times reports that Ratcliffe, a keen amateur cyclist, is “providing the £35m annual costs to keep the team going beyond 2019”.
Brailsford and Ratcliffe have a good working relationship, and the tipped deal would allow the cycling coach to retain complete control over the team.
The pair have also discussed the possibility of a collaboration that goes beyond cycling, with Ratcliffe supportive of Brailsford’s ambitions to “develop a hub of cutting-edge sports science in Britain”, the newspaper claims.
Ratcliffe’s love of sport extends to more than just cycling. In 2017 he bought FC Lausanne-Sport, who play in Switzerland’s top football league, and last year he pumped £110m into Olympic sailing legend Ben Ainslie’s Ineos Team UK, with the aim of contesting the America’s Cup in New Zealand in 2021.
Now, Ratcliffe has his eye on buying Chelsea, where he has a season ticket, “despite growing up in Manchester as a United fan”, The Times reports.
Bridge over troubled waters
The 66-year-old tycoon – worth £21bn, according to The Sunday Times Rich List – has been exploring the possibility of buying Chelsea from Roman Abramovich but “has balked at an asking price of at least £2.5bn”, says The Times.
There has been no declaration from Stamford Bridge that the club is for sale, but Abramovich is rarely seen these days at the club he bought in 2003 – in part, because of the visa problems he has been experiencing in the last year since diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia deteriorated.
The Times says that he has shelved his £1bn plan to rebuild Stamford Bridge, and the pressing need for a new stadium is the reason Ratcliffe doesn’t believe Chelsea is worth £2.5bn in its present guise.
The tycoon isn’t the only one to believe the Blues are demanding too much for a club that this season has been struggling on and off the pitch, with talkSPORT reporting that manager Maurizio Sarri could be sacked by the end of the month.
Forbes magazine values Chelsea at £1.44bn, while KPMG states that the Premier League club is worth £1.26bn. But The Times says that Abramovich is adamant he must see a healthy return on the £1.17bn in loans he’s provided to the club since buying it for £140m some 16 years ago.