Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said he reinforced his “substantial and credible” bid for Chelsea on Tuesday, promising significant investment to make the club “habitual winners.”
The New York-based merchant bank Raine Group have set a final deadline of Thursday for bids to be submitted. Pagliuca’s proposal is one of four to have reached this stage along with a consortium headed by Los Angeles Lakers part-owner Todd Boehly, another led by British businessman Sir Martin Broughton and a third involving the Ricketts family investment group, which also owns the Chicago Cubs.
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Pagliuca was a surprise name on the shortlist given his bid has largely been shrouded in secrecy, but he released a statement outlining his proposals, which include redeveloping Stamford Bridge and denouncing any resurrection of a European Super League.
“This process has been a disconcerting time for the football club and fans,” he said. “Throughout my life and career, my ethos has always been to operate quietly, with integrity, and let my actions and results speak loudly.
“However, it is imperative to clarify and assure supporters about our bid group and its commitments, to emphasise how seriously we take our potential responsibility to Chelsea.
“Later this week we will submit a substantial and credible bid proposal — one that we expect will meet the respective requirements and regulations of the Premier League, UK Government and UEFA — and we pledge to honour our commitment to credibility and good guardianship of Chelsea Football Club from day one.”
Pagliuca’s acknowledgment of UEFA is potentially significant as along with a group of investors, he bought a controlling stake in Atalanta worth an estimated $450 million in February. Pagliuca became co-chairman as part of the deal, but UEFA rules dictate that if two clubs majority-owned by the same entity are ever drawn against each other in competitions, one would have to agree to forfeit.
Both Atalanta and Chelsea played in the Champions League this season, with the Serie A side knocked out in the group stages.
Pagliuca’s commitment to the bid has reportedly been underlined in recent days by the addition of NBA chairman and serial sports investor Larry Tanenbaum, while Pagliuca was in attendance at St. Mary’s Stadium on Saturday as Chelsea thrashed Southampton 6-0.
After expressing his “hope to see a comeback for the ages against Real Madrid” when Chelsea aim to overturn a 3-1 deficit to Carlo Ancelotti’s side in Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 second leg, Pagliuca went on to outline three key areas his bid team have identified.
“Our first focus and goal is to make strategic investments to continue competing for championships and trophies,” he said.
“We will support our players and managers to make sure that Chelsea are habitual winners and title contenders, whether in the Premier League, Champions League or the Women’s Super League [the only Super League we intend competing in, for the record].
“In addition, we will continue to invest in the youth academy to develop the stars of the future and we would not be in this process if we did not have an exciting and inclusive vision for Chelsea.
“Our second focus will be to continue to cherish and preserve the legacy and traditions of the club. In over 20 years of ownership of the Boston Celtics, we have not once considered changing the name, colours, or logo of the club. This is our guarantee to Chelsea fans.
“Not only are we committed to remaining at the home of Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, but we are inspired to renovate or redevelop the stadium. Chelsea is a world-class team, in a world-class city, with world-class fans: it deserves a world-class stadium.
“Our third focus will be having a significant positive impact in the community. We believe passionately that clubs have a social responsibility, and we will continue to support The Chelsea Foundation and its impressive work in education, health and wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion both locally and globally.
“Chelsea should be the Pride of London for its on- and off-field accomplishments. It has fans all over the world and we will not tolerate bullying, anti-Semitism, racism, or any other form of hateful speech — and neither should our fans.”
Pagliuca has faced criticism for not engaging with fan groups during the bid process, but that final comment could be interpreted as a slight on the Ricketts family, who have faced criticism for past anti-Islamic comments made by the patriarch, Joe, which resurfaced after their interest became public.
Shortly after Pagliuca’s statement was released, the Ricketts family confirmed that Lord Karan Bilimoria, an Indian-born businessman who founded Cobra beer and is a Chelsea season-ticket holder, would play a key role in their bid.
Bilimoria said: “I founded Cobra Beer just down the road from Stamford Bridge and have been a season-ticket holder for many years. So, when Tom Ricketts approached me to discuss a leading role in his bid group, there was no way I could refuse. Tom and the wider group have a proven track record of running successful sports teams and a strong vision for both the club and the local community.”