Saudi Media Group ‘makes $3.5BN bid’ for Chelsea
The Saudi Media Group (SMG) has tabled a £2.7 billion ($3.5 billion) offer to take over Chelsea from Russian owner Roman Abramovich, according to a report.
Businessman Abramovich put the reigning European and world champions up for sale on March 2, having first announced that he wanted to hand over "stewardship and care" of the club to its trustees a day after the conflict started on February 24.
Now the largest media organization in the Middle East, which is said to be led by a Chelsea fan in Mohamed Alkhereiji, is seeking support to drum up funding and backers from Saudi royal Mohammed bin Khalid Al Saud, CBS has said.
Abramovich was barred from selling the club or making a profit from any sale when the UK Government froze the billionaire's assets last week because of what it described as close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin
Chelsea can still make a sale of the club through New York investment bank Raine Group, with the government said to be open to a suitable deal as quickly as possible through a special dispensation.
I can confirm Saudi Media Group have made a £2.7bn ($3.5bn) offer to buy Chelsea. Mohamed Alkhereiji is a Chelsea fan and leading a private consortium. No direct government links.— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) March 14, 2022
There is is support in finding funding and partners (but not financial backing as far as I am told) from Mohammed bin Khalid Al Saud. What's interesting about Khalid Al Saud is he's also chair of Saudi Telecom Company (STC).— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) March 14, 2022
Newcastle's majority owners, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), are directly owned by the Saudi government.
The SMG is not owned by the government, although Khalid Al Saud is chair of the state-owned Saudi Telecom Company (STC), which the PIF has shares in.
The report suggested that interest would create 'significant issues' if the STC was part of any takeover consortium.
STC is State-owned and Newcastle owners PIF still have shares in it despite selling some in December. Probably just a coincidence that another telecoms provider has a link in light of the Three situation.— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) March 14, 2022
The reason I say this is because STC couldn't be part of a consortium (without significant issues) and if Chelsea do change shirt sponsor it would more likely be NEOM or Saudi's new national airline. KSA's focus is to use sport to promote global tourism not MENA business.— Ben Jacobs (@JacobsBen) March 14, 2022
It also claimed that Neom – a future planned city to be built in the Tabuk Province of north-western Saudi Arabia – or Saudi's new national airline, Saudia, could become Chelsea's shirt sponsor.
Alkhereiji runs the SMG and is the CEO of its parent company, the Engineer Holding Group, which was founded by his father, Abdulelah Alkhereiji.
Alkhereiji has lived in the UK previously and is said to have attended the Cass Business School and worked at Deutsche Bank, attending a 3-1 win for Chelsea over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge in 2017.
The Saudi Media Group is said to turn over $1 billion every year and has worked with Saudi side Al Hilal, who Chelsea beat in the Club World Cup semifinals last month.
Chelsea are reportedly ready to reject "politically sensitive" bids, according to the Telegraph, which said that the SMG does not believe it falls into that category because it is a private entity without any direct ties to the Saudi leadership.
The regime has been accused of human rights abuses and has been linked to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has always denied those allegations.
Chelsea face major concerns over their financial stability, having been hit with a range of restrictions by the government sanctions.
The club cannot sell matchday tickets and merchandise and cannot make transfers or tie players down to new contracts.
the Saudi 🇸🇦 bidder is a Chelsea fan, his kids are Chelsea fans too, he also want to redevelop Stamford Bridge and renew player contracts, ya Allah 🙏 pic.twitter.com/Sub9bW76gr— Malik Ofori (@malikofori) March 12, 2022
Lucrative sponsors including Three and Hyundai have suspended their partnerships with Chelsea, who have one of the largest wage bills of any football club in the world.
Abramovich, who has always said he has not done anything to warrant being sanctioned, has bankrolled the club to near-constant success since taking over in 2003.
The Blues are third in the Premier League and are on course to qualify for the quarterfinals of this season's Champions League.