IIt was announced Friday that a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly has been selected as the preferred bidder in the race to buy Chelsea from Roman Abramovich. If the 46-year-old hedge fund billionaire can repeat the lifesaving job he’s done with the Dodgers over the past decade, it’s a result that will sit well with Blues fans.
In 2011, the Dodgers were among the most mismanaged teams in North American sport under Frank McCourt, the Boston real estate developer who had purchased the franchise and surrounding land from Chavez Ravine from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Entertainment Group seven years earlier. .
Although McCourt retained sole ownership of the Dodgers after a high-profile divorce in 2009, Major League Baseball assumed day-to-day control of operations less than two years later with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig citing “his deep concerns concerning finance”. and operations” of the debt-ridden club.
It all ended 10 years ago this Sunday when Guggenheim Baseball Management – a group of investors including Boehly, Mark Walter and LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson – completed its purchase of the Dodgers for 2.15 billion in a bankruptcy court-supervised sale, nearly doubling the previous record sale price for a sports team in North America ($1.1 billion reported for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins in 2009) and worldwide (the acquisition of Manchester United by the Glazer family in 2005, then valued at 1.47 billion dollars).
The astonishing coup was to spoil rival bids from Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke and hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, who went on to buy the New York Mets for a record $2. $42 billion in October 2020.
What followed in California was one of the most dramatic reversals of fortune in the annals of North American sports. Within two years of restoring the club’s respectability, Boehly secured an $8.35 billion deal between Time Warner Cable and the Dodgers to create SportsNet LA, a regional network that carried all Dodgers games. Much of this money immediately flowed back into the insurance funds which were raised to buy the team and reinvested in the payroll. It’s been nine years since they missed the playoffs.
The Dodgers, who had dropped out of the top 10 in annual payrolls under McCourt’s ownership and were outbid small-market clubs in the free-agent market, have since eclipsed the New York Yankees as the biggest spenders in the baseball, reinvested in their stadium, mended badly frayed ties with the city and, most importantly, ended the club’s 32-year championship drought with its 2020 World Series triumph.
Buying the Dodgers was just the beginning of Boehly’s move into sports ownership. He bought a stake in the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks soon after and last year partnered with Walter to buy a 27% stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA’s third most valued team. with an estimated value of $5.14 billion. Boehly would also be among the top five bidders to buy the Denver Broncos from the NFL.
When he first approached Abramovich to buy Chelsea three years ago in a bid that was rejected – after a previous failed bid for Tottenham – Boehly explained why he wanted a Premier League club for his wallet. “Football is the most important sport in the world, the fan passion for sport and teams is unparalleled,” Boehly told Bloomberg in 2019. “So what you try to build with these teams, you try really about a) winning and b) being part of the community.
“The opportunity we had with the Dodgers was really about co-ownership with Los Angeles, how are we going to win, how are we going to drive championships, and how are we going to develop the passion. If you look at what the Premier League offers, it’s all of that.
“One of the great things the Premier League has is that it’s a Saturday morning in America. So you have an unencumbered time slot which is now completely dominated by the Premier League. NBC has done an amazing job by providing this content.
“When I was growing up, [there was] Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, but I certainly didn’t know Manchester United, I didn’t know Chelsea, I didn’t know Tottenham. Kids these days are fully aware of what is best and the Premier League is the best. I continue to believe that there is a global opportunity for top clubs.
His experience bent in turmoil is not limited to the world of sport. Last year, as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association faced an existential crisis after NBC scrapped its flagship Golden Globes television broadcast after allegations of personal dealings, ethical lapses and an alarming lack of diversity, it t is Boehly who has been named interim CEO.
Boehly, who studied at the London School of Economics and whose private equity firm, Eldrige Industries, operates a portfolio of businesses in the sports, media, property development and hospitality sectors, operated as the man behind the curtain with the Dodgers, certainly compared to the more forward-facing Walter and Johnson.
Now it has been reported that Boehly will be Chelsea’s most influential managerial figure, a role he seems well prepared for after a decade behind the scenes at some of the most prominent clubs in all of sport.