New Chelsea owner predicts threats & opportunities
The financial potential of Chelsea can be developed even further but the so-called ‘Big Six’ English football clubs will have to contend with the rise of Saudi-backed Newcastle United, according to new Blues owner Todd Boehly.
Boehly and private equity firm Clearlake Capital completed their £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) takeover of the London club last month, bringing an end to the trophy-laden 19-year reign of owner Roman Abramovich.
The Russian billionaire placed the Blues up for sale shortly before being sanctioned by the UK government for his alleged links to Vladimir Putin.
US financier Boehly is intent on making his mark as the public face of Chelsea’s new owners, and hinted at the direction in which he sees the club – and the English Premier League – moving when he spoke at a Berlin conference this week.
“They don’t realize how big their opportunity is,” Boehly said of the financial potential and global appeal of English football’s top tier, according to The Telegraph. “Let’s get a hold of our destiny and think about how to optimize this.”
Boehly, who is also part-owner of baseball team the LA Dodgers, joins a number of US owners in English football.
Some, such as Liverpool’s paymasters Fenway Sports, have enjoyed success on the pitch and respect among fans, while others – most notably Manchester United bosses the Glazer family – have become a target for vitriol from supporters for their running of the club.
Boehly, 48, will firmly hope to be in the former camp, but issued another prediction as he tipped the established ‘top six’ of English football – consisting of Chelsea, Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham – to be challenged by Newcastle United now that they are the hands of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The Saudi-backed takeover of the North East club was completed amid much controversy last October, and has effectively turned Newcastle into among the richest teams in world football.
Boehly said the kind of investment Newcastle can expect would shake up the Premier League.
“The big six will become the big seven with the Saudi deal for Newcastle,” said the American. “There is going to be opportunity for everyone to win.”
After completing his deal for Chelsea towards the end of the season, Boehly was seen in the stands at Stamford Bridge and at the club’s Cobham training ground as he met men’s team manager Thomas Tuchel and others to plot a new vision.
In order to match Abramovich, however, that plan must bring success to a club whose fans enjoyed silverware at regular intervals under the Russian. Abramovich was wildly popular with the Blues faithful for the vast investment he made down the years, turning Chelsea into five-time Premier League winners and two-time Champions League kings, among a host of other prizes.
Among the most pressing issues for Boehly and the new ownership is the future of record signing Romelu Lukaku, who returned to the club for a fee of almost £100 million last summer but has failed to ignite the Chelsea attack.
Boehly is said to be in agreement with Tuchel that the best option for all concerned is for Lukaku to return to Italian giants Inter Milan.
Talks are reportedly ongoing about an initial loan spell back at the club where the Belgian enjoyed two successful seasons, including winning Serie A, before making his comeback for an ill-fated second stint at Stamford Bridge.