Chelsea: Takeover hopeful Seb Coe concerned sale will leave club saddled with debt for generations

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 (PA)
(PA)

Seb Coe insists Chelsea must not be saddled with debt after the buyout of the club is completed.

His comments come after Roman Abramovich sparked fears in Whitehall that he will back out of plans to write off more than £1.5billion in loans.

That could jeopardise the sale of Chelsea, which is now entering its final stages, with Todd Boehly in exclusive negotiations to complete the deal before the May 31 deadline.

Coe is part of a rival bid by Sir Martin Broughton — and on Wednesday raised concerns over the impact the uncertainty could have on Thomas Tuchel’s team. He is adamant that any new ownership cannot be laden with debt.

“I subscribe to the view you can’t have this going on indefinitely,” he told LBC. “There are all sorts of things at play here, particularly the performance of a team.

“It is really important this gets resolved. But it needs to be done carefully and properly and you can’t hurry this if there are still questions about ownership and bids. Wherever this ends up, as a Chelsea fan, I want to make sure it is done in a way that doesn’t leave the club in hock for generations to come and there is investment in the team.”

Abramovich vowed to write off all of his loans to Chelsea when announcing in March that the club was being put up for sale. He has since been sanctioned by the UK Government because of his ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

But it is understood the oligarch now expects his loan to be frozen, along with his other assets, which could prevent him from writing off the debt to Chelsea’s parent company, Fordstam Ltd.

The latest development has added fresh uncertainty to a process that has already seen a host of twists and turns over the past two months.

The Government, who will have to issue a special licence to permit the sale, will not allow any monies to go to Abramovich, who also claimed previously that all proceeds of the sale would go to victims of the war in Ukraine. But there is also an acceptance within Whitehall that they need the Russian billionaire’s agreement to sell the club.

If Abramovich refuses to write off the debt, it threatens to leave Chelsea in limbo, with the special licence granted to them to continue football operations until the end of the season due to expire at the end of the month.

Roman Abramovich (AFP via Getty Images)
Roman Abramovich (AFP via Getty Images)

US merchant bank Raine Group has been tasked with the responsibility of finding a buyer for Abramovich, and last week it named Boehly’s consortium as the preferred bidder to enter a five-day exclusive negotiation period before being put forward to the Treasury.

But there is also the added uncertainty over a late £4.25bn bid by Sir Jim Ratcliffe on Friday, which is still considered to be in play. The offers from Broughton and Steve Pagliuca are also on standby and could yet be resurrected if Boehly’s negotiations hit a snag.

The candidates have been asked to meet new requirements throughout the process. These included an extra £1bn to invest in the team, stadium and club, as well as an assurance that they would not look to sell on the club for at least 10 years.

Last week, bidders were surprised when an extra £500million was requested.

I genuinely think the club should end up with British ownership.

Boehly is still pressing ahead to complete the takeover, but the matter could be taken out of the American’s hands with regards to the repayment of the Abramovich loan.

Meanwhile, Coe insists Chelsea should be British-owned.

“I genuinely think the club should end up with British ownership,” he said. “I’m not being jingoistic. I live in a global sporting community where properties are owned, but I do think that football is different, I genuinely think that.

“I want to make sure that when I’m sitting there in 20 years’ time, hopefully with grandchildren, that I’m watching a club that I recognise and a club that still has a strong affinity with the local community. That’s why I became a Chelsea fan. That’s why my parents are Chelsea fans and why my grandparents are Chelsea fans. I hope I’m able still to say that going forward.”

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