The owners of the Chicago Cubs and Ken Griffin, the billionaire hedge fund tycoon, have joined forces to table a blockbuster bid for Chelsea Football Club.
Sky News can exclusively reveal that the Ricketts family and Mr Griffin have formed an investment group that will lodge a formal offer for last season’s Champions League winners on Friday – the deadline set for bids to be in.
The development, which will be publicly announced on Wednesday, presents a formidable competitor to rival bidders as Roman Abramovich’s 19-year tenure as Chelsea’s owner draws to a conclusion.
Sources close to their impending bid said the Ricketts’ record of success with the Chicago Cubs and the financial firepower of their consortium would make an ideal recipe for success at Stamford Bridge.
The last six years have been the most successful in the Cubs’ history – winning the World Series and completing a $1bn renovation of the team’s home, Wrigley Field, which is one of the most historic sports arenas in the US, having been built in 1914.
That narrative is expected to be deployed amid the ongoing debate about the future of Stamford Bridge, which Chelsea fans and executives generally accept will need extensive expansion work if the club is to compete sustainably with European rivals which boast much larger capacities.
Mr Griffin’s involvement adds enormous financial clout to the bid. He is the founder and chief executive of Citadel Asset Management and among the most successful executives in the history of Wall Street.
Forbes magazine recently estimated his wealth at $26.5bn, making him the richest individual to be publicly linked with the Chelsea auction so far.
The source said the Ricketts-Griffin bid would be “the most complete bid on the table – no one else has had the on-field success the Ricketts Family have had with the Cubs, combined with successfully completing a massive renovation of an historic stadium”.
A statement from the Ricketts family confirmed the bid and added: “As long-time operators of an iconic professional sports team, the Ricketts Family and their partners understand the importance of investing for success on the pitch, while respecting the traditions of the club, the fans and the community.
“We look forward to sharing further details of our plans in due course.”
Rival bidders want to work with Candy
Meanwhile, other bidders are also considering joining forces as the race for Chelsea heats up. It is understood bidders are interested in joining forces with life-long Chelsea fan Nick Candy, due to his record of developing property in central London.
Candy has the funds and backers in place to make an offer for Chelsea this week. He has promised to give Chelsea fans a seat on its board if his bid is successful.
In an interview with Sky Sports News before Chelsea’s Premier League victory over Newcastle on Sunday, Candy revealed his passion for the club and his desire to become Roman Abramovich’s successor, who was sanctioned last week after announcing his desire to sell the Blues.
“I’ve supported Chelsea since I was the age of four,” Mr Candy told Sky Sports. “My dad was asked to play for Chelsea. I love Chelsea. I don’t mind where it ends up, even if it’s not with me, as long as it’s in safe hands.
“One hundred per cent [the fans need to be included in ownership] and they should be involved. Both on the board and economically.”
Government discuss third party option for Chelsea ticket sales
The UK Government have suggested to Chelsea they could start selling match tickets through a third party organisation to get past the sanctions placed on owner Abramovich.
The Blues cannot sell any more tickets to their fans – nor release any away tickets to visiting fans for Stamford Bridge games – under the licence handed to the Russian owner and the club last week.
Chelsea requested this weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final at Middlesbrough be played behind closed doors as the lack of Blues away fans there would damage the “sporting integrity” of the fixture and the competition. However, the west London club revoked that request after strong backlash from the football community.
However, the government want to let Chelsea start selling tickets again as soon as possible and one of the proposals they are working on is to hand over responsibility for selling tickets to a third party.
A third party would oversee the distribution of tickets to ensure that Roman Abramovich was not benefiting from the proceeds in any way.