Football: Three suitors left as Ricketts consortium withdraws from Chelsea bid race

The Ricketts-Griffin-Gilbert Group has decided, after careful consideration, not to submit a final bid for Chelsea FC. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - A consortium led by Chicago Cubs owners the Ricketts family has pulled out of the running to buy English Premier League club Chelsea, the family said on Friday (April 15), leaving three bidders remaining.

Final bids for the club, which was put up for sale by owner Roman Abramovich following Russia's invasion of Ukraine before sanctions were imposed on the oligarch by the British government, were submitted on Thursday.

The Ricketts family, who had partnered US billionaires Ken Griffin and Dan Gilbert, submitted a cash-only offer and had been included on the four-bid shortlist produced by US Bank Raine Group, which is overseeing the sale.

"The Ricketts-Griffin-Gilbert Group has decided, after careful consideration, not to submit a final bid for Chelsea FC," the statement read.

"In the process of finalising their proposal, it became increasingly clear that certain issues could not be addressed given the unusual dynamics around the sales process. We have great admiration for Chelsea and its fans, and we wish the new owners well."

The Ricketts family's surprise withdrawal leaves groups led by LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly, former Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca as the remaining bidders.

The family had met fan groups after it emerged that the Chelsea Supporters' Trust said that 77 per cent of its members did not support their bid.

The reaction was in response to leaked e-mails from 2019 in which American businessman Joe Ricketts described Muslims as his"enemy". Joe was not involved in the bid, with daughter Laura and son Tom fronting the consortium.

However, sources close to the deal told Reuters that their withdrawal was not as a result of the fan reaction, but due to differences between the parties within the consortium.

They had outlined a list of commitments if their bid to buy Chelsea was successful, saying they would never allow the Premier League club to participate in a European Super League while also exploring the option of redeveloping Stamford Bridge.

Earlier on Friday, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said the team were focused on Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace and had not been distracted by curbs on club director Eugene Tenenbaum.

The British government said on Thursday it had imposed sanctions on Tenenbaum in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with his assets frozen. It cited his close association with Abramovich, who was already under sanctions.

"I saw it yesterday and there is not much more about it. For us, I don't know the implications and what it means for the club," Tuchel told reporters.

"Right now, it's not a further distraction. It's just one more of the same time... It's about the sale and the board, that process.

"It's no new subject so for me, from my point of view, that here at the training ground it is far from as big a distraction as you may think when you see it on TV as breaking news."

Tuchel said he was not aware of new developments in the proposed takeover of the club, adding that talks were still going on.

The German manager said the Blues, who won the Champions League last season, were disappointed to be knocked out in the quarter-finals this campaign but they were happy with their display in the 3-2 second-leg win away to Real Madrid this week.

"We are all a bit in between. Confidence wise, I think it's a huge boost but it's a disappointment to go out of the Champions League at the quarter-finals," he said. "We've got some training time now before our Sunday match and we will use it to sweat it out and be ready for Sunday."

Chelsea have a fit squad for Sunday's all-London affair against Palace, except for Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi, while Romelu Lukaku had returned to training and could be available for the game.

Tuchel said he apologised to loanee Conor Gallagher for Chelsea not allowing Palace to field him against them in Sunday's match.

"I had the chance to speak to Conor and I could see his frustration. We met some weeks ago, after the international break, we ran into each other by coincidence and we had a chat and I apologised because I know how competitive he is," Tuchel said.

"It's the way it is. We play to win the game and the rules were clear when we made the loan. I can understand the disappointment of Conor."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.