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Chelsea ‘bleeding money’, warn new bidders with ‘$53BN of assets’

INTERNATIONAL: Four Chelsea supporters are involved in a consortium to buy the Premier League giants and have warned that the 'clock is ticking' on a deal.

Four Chelsea supporters are behind a multi-billion dollar bid to buy the Champions League holders and have vowed to showcase "exemplary custodianship" of the Premier League side if their attempt to succeed Roman Abramovich as the owner is completed.

Centricus, a global investment firm that reportedly has funds of more than $38 billion, is headed by co-founder Nizar Al-Bassam and chief executive Garth Ritchie.

Both men are long-standing supporters of the Blues and have been joined by Cheyne Capital hedge fund manager Jonathan Lourie and Bob Finch, of Talis Capital, in a bid submitted before Friday's deadline for offers.

New York merchant bank Raine Group, which is overseeing the sale of the club, is expected to concentrate all of the bids into a shortlist of the three most attractive offers before a final sale is confirmed.

Centricus have attempted to appeal to Raine by stating that their goal is to maintain the current commercial and sporting elements of Chelsea's business.

"We oversee £40 billion [more than $53 billion] in assets," Al-Bassam told MailOnline on Sunday, adding that the group works with football governing bodies UEFA and FIFA.

"There's a clock [on finding a new owner for Chelsea] ticking because the club is bleeding money at a faster rate than it should be while there's uncertainty there.

"I've had the same seats in the Tambling suite [at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium] and the same seats in the West Stand for 10 years. I'm worried for the staff there when I see this turmoil.

"We've tried to focus on a proposal which aligns the ownership of the club with long-term investors with a deep history with the club. If you look at the proposal we put forward, keeping it an entirely British finance proposal is core to that.

"There are plenty of very successful clubs financed by international investors but in this case, after two decades of exceptional success by the club, the club has the fanbase with the resources to support the club to maintain that success. That's what's very unique about this proposal.

"We've looked at the club in the past. There have been occasions where there were rumors of the club being available but ultimately all those projects were shelved.

Our bid is all domestic, we don't have any foreign investors so we're using domestic capital which I think is quite noteworthy. We all attend the matches with our kids.

"I don't think any of us are coming purely because we're fans or purely because we love football.

"It's really driven by the commercial opportunities. But it is a long-term investment."

Centricus underlined their long-term commitment in a statement looking to "continued success" for the Premier League's third-placed team.

“The intention is to maintain and support existing management on both the business and sporting operations of the CFC Group," they said. "We intend to maintain the existing strategic direction."

The group said Chelsea had been operating under "challenging conditions" and emphasized the importance of a "smooth and stable ownership transition" alongside open dialogue.

“Centricus would be focused on ensuring that [Chelsea continue] to achieve sporting excellence, high level of community support, transparent governance, financial sustainability, fan engagement and exemplary custodianship," they added.

Centricus has also pledged to “maintain an elite global brand” while continuing to significantly invest in the Chelsea women's team, the club's highly successful youth academy, and its charitable Chelsea Foundation.

Chelsea has been for sale since March 2, when Abramovich confirmed his intention to sell six days after Russia's attack on Ukraine began.

The businessman was sanctioned in the UK on March 10, with Boris Johnson's Conservative government claiming that Abramovich has direct ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich has always denied that he has done anything to warrant being punished.

The 55-year-old's UK assets – including Chelsea – were frozen and the club was ordered to operate under the terms of a government license.

The club wants the government to reconsider the potentially crippling measures, which include a ban on selling tickets and merchandise, agreeing on new contracts with players, making signings, and spending more than $26,000 on travel to away games.

Abramovich is prohibited from profiting from the sale and had already announced that a $2 billion loan to the club was being written off.

Several other bids for Chelsea are thought to remain on the table. Major League Baseball side LA Dodgers' part-owner Todd Boehly, the Ricketts family who own rivals Chicago Cubs and British property magnate Nick Candy are involved in some of the potential bids, as are the Saudi Media Group.

The government is said to be keen to agree on a swift sale subject to the Premier League's ownership tests.

"For us, you simply can't buy a club and expect to sell it in five or 10 years," said Al-Bassam.

"The expectations from the fans, the regulators, be it the FA or Premier League or from the government, would be not to have a sale of this club in the next five or 10 years.

"So, this would have to be a very, very long-term commitment. The commitment just around either a stadium expansion or a new stadium is a half-decade commitment and that needs to be done in consultation with the community, the council, and with fans."

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