Todd Boehly has been the face of the consortium that took over Chelsea one month ago
When Roman Abramovich was sanctioned almost four months ago, Chelsea fans feared the worst.
The move by the UK government in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine signalled both the end of the Abramovich era at Stamford Bridge and, it was assumed, almost two decades of unimaginable success.
‘Yeah, this is it,’ reflected one dismayed, but philosophical supporter on social media. ‘The end of Chelsea as we know it. Was fun as long as it lasted.’
The extent of the restrictions placed upon Chelsea, and it appeared on Abramovich’s ability to sell the club, since he was disallowed from any financial benefit, made it hard to disagree.
And even if the club was sold, how many multi-billionaires were out there who would have the financial clout to bankroll the Blues to the same level?
Well, at least five it turns out and the takeover of Chelsea for £4.5billion was announced on May 30.
One month on, the group now in control of the Blues, is led by American investment banker, Todd Boehly, and includes five billionaires, a Spurs fan, who owns one of Harry Kane’s left boots, a PR advisor to the stars and a lifelong supporter, who is a Conservative peer… It’s a funny old game.
Sportsmail assesses the first month of the Boehly era as the American plays out real life Football Manager at Stamford Bridge.
Thomas Tuchel has held extensive discussions with Boehly over re-shaping his squad
Trusting Thomas Tuchel… and reshaping the squad
For Thomas Tuchel, Boehly and his new band of directors represents the cavalry.
Following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich in March 2022, Stamford Bridge was plunged into turmoil by legal restrictions. Everyone at the club was affected, but it was Tuchel who had to lead the fight on the pitch each week.
The uncertainty meant the manager became bogged down. He was unable to agree contracts with existing players or pursue new ones and he was constantly dogged by unanswerable questions over the club’s future. Inevitably, he could not maintain momentum.
But Boehly has swept in like a five-star general and Chelsea are on the march again, propelled by the American’s decisive, hands-on approach, work ethic and sense of urgency.
The official announcement that the Boehly-Clearlake consortium was taking over Chelsea was made on May 30, however, the two men were drawing up their battle plans well before then.
Boehly and Tuchel made the most of May, when the American was in London to finalise the deal. And Tuchel reportedly delayed his holiday to Italy this month to continue those discussions.
The American wants Tuchel at the heart of the project.
He admires the Liverpool model in which the manager, Jurgen Klopp, plays a central role in planning recruitment, supported by a state-of-the-art data science operation, which until this summer was led by Michael Edwards.
Chelsea hope to make Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling a marquee signing this summer
Tuchel is also close to a deal for Raphinha (left) and wants Matthijs de Ligt (right) this summer
Tuchel was always engaged in transfers under the previous administration at Stamford Bridge but he will have an even more pivotal position now.
The absence of signings to date is not a measure of Boehly’s commitment. After a hiatus in the final months of the Abramovich era, Chelsea are playing catch up.
Boehly has spoken of his desire to bring in the ‘best talent’, but also warned about the challenge of financial fair play rules.
He is acutely aware that money needs to be spent wisely, not because there is a shortage of it in his consortium or because he is first and foremost a businessman, but because UEFA’s new FFP rules will limit the number of big deals a club can do in a short space of time.
Signings need to be the ones Tuchel wants and they have to make a difference.
With the departure of Marina Granovskaia, chairman Bruce Buck and technical and performance director Petr Cech confirmed, Boehly has taken a central role in reshaping the squad in this critical moment, assuming the position of interim sporting director.
Chairman Bruce Buck is one of several previously powerful individuals to leave the Bridge
And once Tuchel has had his say, Boehly is said to have been hammering the phones in pursuit of those targets they had identified.
The first meaningful action, however, has been outgoing. Boehly has boldly allowed the Blues £97.5m misfit, Romelu Lukaku, to return on loan to Inter Milan.
Opinion was divided on the 12-month move, with the 29-year-old’s value diminishing with each passing season. It is significant that Tuchel was open to the change after a year that brought much disruption and distraction, but very few goals from the misfiring striker.
It was a decision that placed trust in Tuchel and his judgement over what is needed to succeed.
For boldness, the departure of Lukaku is matched by Chelsea’s fearless pursuit of Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling. In this, Boehly has made another statement of intent.
It is not the fee – expected to be more than £55m – but his assumption that he can march right up to the best team in the country and coax one of their top players to Stamford Bridge, if that is what his manager requires.
Less than a month after the Boehly-Clearlake takeover being confirmed, Chelsea have formally approached City to finalise the marquee signing. Sportsmail understands the new owner hopes to wrap it all up in the coming week. It’s ballsy by any measure.
Romelu Lukaku, 29, has been allowed to return to Inter Milan on loan despite his transfer fee
Building a relationship with fans
Chelsea fans had little cause for complaint when their club was under the stewardship of Roman Abramovich.
The Russian oligarch bought Chelsea for £140m in 2003 and in the 19 years that followed the Blues won every major trophy: Two Champions Leagues, five Premier Leagues, five FA Cups, two Europa Leagues, three EFL Cups, the UEFA Super Cup and in February their first Club World Cup.
Along the way Chelsea – or more accurately Abramovich – spent more than £2bn in the transfer market. As that crestfallen fan said in March, from a footballing perspective it has been some ride.
Russian owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned raising questions over his ability to sell
But if supporters had a complaint, it might be that Abramovich did not always communicate. He became remote, in part because of limitations on his travel to the UK.
Boehly has hardly been verbose since he took over, but he has made some astute moves to reassure fans he is at least listening to their concerns.
General admission prices have been frozen at Stamford Bridge, booking fees removed and tickets for the club’s deluxe development, Westview, reduced.
The American has also ensured part-time staff have had their wages paid. In a club purchased for £4.25bn it was uncomfortable that those on the lowest income were out of pocket.
Of course, what fans want more than anything now are new signings. And they are surely on their way.
Chelsea supporters feared for the long term future of their club in unprecedented times
Boehly has handed Tuchel a £200million transfer budget to strengthen his squad and the promise of six new signings.
Chelsea will hold talks with Raphinha’s agent Deco on Thursday as they press to finalise the Leeds winger’s signing and head off any late threat from Barcelona.
The club have offered a five year deal worth around £118,000 a week and agreed a £55m fee plus add-ons with Leeds as they look to secure their first signing of the window.
De Ligt, from Juventus, and Sevilla’s Jules Kounde are the principal defensive targets but both of those deals have obstacles to overcome.
The Dutch defender has a £103m release clause in his contract, which is due to expire in 2024, so Boehly will need all his negotiating skills to close that gap.
The Blues have expressed an interest in signing both Raheem Sterling and Nathan Ake
Chelsea are considering making a move for Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko
Meanwhile Kounde is desperately wanted by Barcelona and is said to be keen on staying in Spain.
As Sportsmail reported earlier this week, the Blues are also considering a stunning triple swoop from title rivals Manchester City.
In addition to Sterling, Chelsea have full back Oleksandr Zinchenko and centre back Nathan Ake on their transfer wish list.
In releasing Lukaku on loan, Boehly has shown he is not scared to turn his back on past mistakes. And with Tuchel now more influential on outgoings, Chelsea may soon be taking significant hits on Kepa Arrizabalaga, Hakim Ziyech as well as Werner, all expensively recruited.
Tuchel has been handed the reins to direct Chelsea’s transfer business under new owners
Hands-on and a decisive decision maker
Todd Boehly looks like a man on a mission at Chelsea.
The overwhelming impression of his first month in charge as chairman and ‘a co-controlling owner’ at Stamford Bridge is someone with a clear long-term vision, coupled with a determination to make an immediate mark.
Boehly has wasted no time in removing the previous incumbents of the Chelsea board room. Buck, Cech and the revered deal maker and head of operations, Granovskaia have all gone within four weeks of the takeover being completed.
It is what business analysts now like to call a ‘hard reset’. In other words, a clean break.
Marina Granovskaia (left) and Petr Cech are on their way out ahead of the 2022/23 season
While fans eagerly await the first signing of the new era, off the field the changes are far-reaching and well advanced. The foundations are going in.
Last week, the club announced the appointment of a nine-strong board, backed by serious money and eclectic experience.
Where once there was one billionaire owner in Abramovich, now there are five.
Boehly himself started his career as a banker and through Eldridge Investments, a company he co-founded, he now has $40bn-worth of interests in sports betting, restaurants, pizza parlours and the back catalogues of Bruce Springsteen and The Killers.
His own wealth – put at $4.5bn by Forbes – enables him to hold stakes in the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, despite his wide-ranging commitments, Boehly has brought a laser-like focus to Chelsea. He appears energised by the challenge and opportunity the club presents.
Securing Liverpool sporting director Michael Edwards (left) would be significant for Chelsea
After all, despite the glories of the Abramovich years, including the Champions League victory in 2021, Chelsea have not won the Premier League since 2017.
Boehly is said to be constantly available via email and has immersed himself in the business, attending the Premier League’s AGM in North Yorkshire, with co-owner, Behdad Eghbali.
In addition to the structural changes in how the club is run, he is also taking care of the day-to-day. According to Companies House, more than £161m of new shares have been issued since late May.
But his focus includes the football, too, watching the first team, women’s team and academy sides as the season drew to a close.
In taking on the role of interim sporting director, Boehly has put himself firmly at the heart of efforts to reshape Chelsea’s squad. And by making Raheem Sterling and Liverpool’s data guru Michael Edwards the Blues’ first targets, he has made clear his intention is to challenge City and the Reds – in every respect and right away.
Boehly has thrown down the gauntlet.
Boehly is keen to unlock the financial potential for footballers, like LeBron James has in NBA
However, the American has made clear he is not happy to just compete on the established terms of the Premier League. He envisions something bigger and better.
‘We think the global footprint of this sport is really undeveloped,’ Boehly told the Super Return International conference in Berlin earlier this month.
‘There are four billion fans of European football. There are 170 million fans of NFL. Global club football is a fraction of the NFL media money.
‘We are also going to be thinking about, how do we get more revenues for the players? If you look at LeBron James, for example, he has a whole business and a whole team dedicated to what’s not on the court.
‘So, I think there is opportunity to capture some of that American mentality into English sports and really develop them.’
While the open talk of money could conjure the spectre of a brash American out to make a quick buck, that image does not appear to fit Boehly.
He seems to recognise that the game’s – and the club’s – value is wrapped up in exciting, competitive football and making the correct decisions to deliver success on the pitch.
The approach is more City and Liverpool, than Manchester United.
Boehly has spoken against the European Super League, which Chelsea supported last year, and according to The Athletic, he wants the club’s Cobham training base to feature less commercial activity, so the players can focus on football.
Chelsea have enjoyed great success under Abramovich, but not won the league since 2017
And then there were nine….
For almost two decades one man ran Chelsea.
Whatever happened, Roman Abramovich picked up the tab and kept rolling the club forward by strength of personality and huge wealth.
Beneath him he developed a trusted team of Granovskaia, Buck and Cech, who managed the club’s affairs day-to-day.
When Abramovich was sanctioned, it was hard to imagine how a wealthier and more generous owner could be found. For the first time in almost 20 years, Chelsea’s future looked uncertain.
Boehly has assumed the interim role of sporting director in a transformed Chelsea board
But in the event, five billionaires have combined in a remarkably diverse board of multiple nationalities that also includes a journalist and a music promoter. It could hardly be more different.
The first sign of things to come came in early March, when Abramovich was looking to sell. However, while Boehly is now the face of Chelsea’s takeover, it was an octogenarian Swiss, called Hansjorg Wys, who first put his head above the parapet.
Swiss medical magnate Hansjorg Wyss let slip that Roman Abramovich wanted to sell Chelsea back in March
Wys, who is reportedly worth £4.3bn, made his money selling Synthes USA, the world’s largest maker of implants to mend bone fractures.
‘If I buy Chelsea, then [it will be] with a consortium consisting of six to seven investors,’ Wys told the Swiss newspaper Blick. And so, it proved.
On June 7, Blueco 22 was named at Companies House as having ‘significant control’ over Chelsea.
Among Blueco 22’s directors are Boehly, Wyss, Mark Walter – the chief executive of Guggenheim Capital – and Clearlake Capital executives Behdad Eghbali, Jose Feliciano and James Pade.
There is no shortage of money.
Boehly, Eghbali and Feliciano are described as co-controlling owners of the club.
Eghbali, who moved to the US from Iran when he was 10-years-old, and Feliciano, who was born in Puerto Rico, are the co-founders and managing partners of Clearlake.
Big changes are afoot with a new batch of directors already named at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea’s Companies House page has seen plenty of activity since Todd Boehly’s takeover
The company, which was founded in 2006, now has £60bn of assets and is believed to own the majority stake in Chelsea. Forbes estimates that each man has a personal fortune of $3.4bn.
Eghbali, who has a reputation as a relentless dealmaker, will act as Clearlake’s main voice in the Chelsea ownership.
He will tuck in behind Boehly but provides an important presence in explaining the US investment firm’s role in the new Stamford Bridge ownership structure.
Pade, the third Clearlake rep on the board, a promising tennis player in his youth, is a partner and managing director at the investment company.
Meanwhile, Walter, like Wys, is a co-owner of Chelsea with his personal wealth estimated to be $3.8bn. He has made his money through finance and investments.
His own interests include plant-based food companies and online car sales, and he owns a nature reserve in Florida, which is reported to include elephants, rhinos and two tigers.
Walter has co-owned the LA Dodgers since 2012 when his investment group (which includes the likes of Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King) bought the 2020 World Series champions for £1.7bn.
Mark Walter (L), CEO of Guggenheim Partners, has co-owned MLB’s LA Dodgers since 2012
Walter had a clear hand in the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays
He had a hand in the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series triumph and has forged an impressive track record behind the scenes with the franchise, raising hopes of similar influences now at Chelsea.
Another board member Jonathan Goldstein, who is from Ilford in east London, worked with Walters at Guggenheim Partners, before he joined forces with Boehly and others in 2014 to create a new investment company called Cain International.
Goldstein, a lifelong Spurs fan, who has one of Harry Kane’s left boots displayed in his office, has extensive experience in property development leading to speculation he may lead the long-awaited redevelopment of Stamford Bridge.
The board is interesting not only for the depth of business interests and eye-watering wealth it contains, but also the breadth of experience outside of deal-making.
Lord Daniel Finkelstein OBE is a lifelong Chelsea fan and journalist, who has written for the Jewish Chronicle and held various senior positions at The Times since he joined the title in 2001. He now writes a regular column.
Behdad Eghbali founded Clearlake Capital and has overseen the private equity firm’s growth
Appointed to the House of Lords in 2013 as a Conservative peer, Finkelstein is a former adviser to John Major and William Hague.
He will no doubt fulfil many roles on the board, but his fan perspective and PR and political nous will be invaluable.
The final board member is another diehard Chelsea supporter, albeit she came to love the club and game later in life than many.
Barbara Charone worked as a music journalist interviewing headline acts, like The Eagles for publications such as NME and Rolling Stone.
An American from Chicago, she discovered football while house-sitting for Keith Richards at his home in Sussex, as she worked on the guitarist’s biography.
On her return to her own house in London, Charone, known as ‘BC’, adopted her local club, Chelsea and has held a season ticket at Stamford Bridge since 1981.
A PR expert, Charone was head of press for Warner music and co-founded her own agency, MBC PR, 20 years ago, which boasts Rod Stewart and Madonna among its clients.
Only season ticket holders were able to attend matches under the sanctions last season
She was instrumental in putting together Chelsea’s FA Cup final song ‘Blue Day’ in 1997, which featured Suggs, the lead singer of Madness. Chelsea beat Middlesbrough 2-0 that day, with goals from Roberto di Matteo and Eddie Newton.
In English football, the owner of a club was traditionally a self-made man indulging a passion, who could probably lay his hands on a sheepskin coat on a cold day.
In the Premier League, that has long since changed as global owners and state actors have played a more prominent role.
But this looks different again. A mixture of private equity and shared personal wealth on a breathtaking scale, and a board that brings together diverse experience and intellects, which appears to be designed to meet the financial, political and ethical challenges of the modern era.
The new board looks well equipped. And against all the odds, Chelsea may have bounced back stronger.