Two Wyoming billionaire landowners are in the running to buy London’s fabled Chelsea Football Club.
Hansjorg Wyss and Joe Ricketts are each part of different consortia that are on the short list of four groups approved for an auction to buy the English Premier League team.
Wyss, a Teton County landowner, joins a group led by Todd Boehly that includes three others, according to Sports Illustrated. Boehly is a 20% owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, among other sports, media and philanthropic undertakings. Swiss businessman Wyss founded a medical device company and is an environmentalist and philanthropist.
Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, also possesses the Jackson Fork Ranch in Bondurant where he recently won approval for a zone change allowing him to construct a posh guest retreat. The 64-room resort was necessary to generate income, Ricketts said, so he could pass the property on to his grandchildren who otherwise “don’t have the money to put into it.”
The two families’ Wyoming properties lie about equidistant from the Hoback Junction roundabout. Wyss’s home is about 18 miles to the northwest of the traffic circle, Ricketts about the same distance to the southeast.
Their political orientations are further apart — Wyss characterized as a supporter of liberal causes, Ricketts a GOP donor.
The frantic competition to snap up Chelsea — a world famous sporting enterprise — has drained barrels of ink from pressrooms from Fleet Street to Wall Street. The shootout has appeared on the front pages, sports pages and websites of publications including Sports Illustrated, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Chelsea Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal and the Mirror. The media scrum has painted a picture of a distress sale that’s shifting faster than a breakaway by star Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.
But whether Christian Pulisic or Kai Havertz become household names at Bondurant’s Elkhorn Bar and Trading Post, the same way they are in Fulham’s boutiques and coffee shops, is another matter.
The auction-style sale is being conducted by The Raine Group, an international merchant bank, after Russian owner Roman Abramovich put the club on the market. The United Kingdom sanctioned him following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a move that could preclude Abramovich from seeing any profit from the sale.
Bids from the four groups are due April 11. The successful party will take over the club by the end of April, according to widespread reporting.
Already New York Jets owner Woody Johnson’s bid, believed to be about $2.6 billion, failed to win him the team, the Mirror reported. Raine Group has cautioned bidders not to turn the auction into a publicity contest, according to The Telegraph.
That may be difficult in the highly scrutinized Stamford Bridge arena. Every aspect of bidders’ characters is being picked apart by fans and the worldwide press.
That includes the Ricketts, who have had to deflect criticism over a 3-year-old accusation that Joe Ricketts made anti-Muslim statements in a series of emails. The family rejects “any form of hate,” the Guardian reported. A Chicago Muslim civil rights organization has backed Joe Ricketts’ son, Tom Ricketts, in his efforts to diffuse the bad press.
Fans have not been convinced, The Guardian wrote. But the family remains in the bidding despite a backlash from Blue supporters who push a #NoToRicketts campaign.
The Premier League is sensitive to racial prejudice. All 20 league teams begin matches by taking a knee to show their support for equality.
Meantime, Wyss partner Boehly may have burnished his group’s chances, Sports Illustrated columnist Nick Emms wrote. That comes from the Dodgers’ re-signing of troubled outfielder Andrew Toles, an action that ensures the player will have health insurance and access to therapists.
Emms called the signing “a fantastic gesture” that could boost the Chelsea takeover bid.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky added to the interest in current Chelsea owner Abramovich’s fortune when he asked the U.S. not to sanction the Russian because of his potential role in peace negotiations, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Chelsea is in third place in the Premier League, the top echelon of English soccer, with a 28-17 record behind leader Manchester City and second-place Liverpool. The Liverpool name rekindles memories of another Wyoming entrepreneur, George Gillett, whose family company bought the Grand Targhee Resort and ski area in 1997.
Gillett owned Liverpool from 2007 through 2010.