Behdad Eghbali and Todd Boehly, the new owners of Chelsea, have broken the £1 billion barrier in fees since their takeover in May last year. The consortium led by Eghbali and Boehly may acquire a stake in Sporting CP, one of the Portuguese big three, and face a significant decision over Stamford Bridge’s future and a possible alternative.
Their personal dynamic affects everything, from the confidence of their big investors to the match-going fan. Co-ownership has not been a common theme in the modern Premier League, and it will be fascinating to watch it develop.
Chelsea’s ownership is constantly thinking about what that 100-point team looks like and putting together the right players who will make that team. The club’s future rests on them being right. This is an typically ambitious target for Eghbali and Boehly, achieved just once in the Premier League era by Manchester City in 2017-18. The two Americans are very different men, united in the consortium to buy Chelsea for £2.5 billion, with a further £1.75 billion pledged for investment.
Since May last year, they have torn up the approach to success in the world’s most globally popular sporting league. They have pursued their vision relentlessly, with an astonishing scale of investment, big sales, and four managers already.
Chelsea’s chairman, Todd Boehly, has been a key figure in the club’s success. Born in Tehran, Eghbali moved to California with his family at the age of 10 and founded private equity fund Clearlake Capital in 2006.
The fund owns around 65 per cent of the consortium that owns the club. Eghbali is in ultimate control when it comes to Chelsea, while Boehly, who grew up in Maryland as a high school wrestling champion, is described by his company office Eldridge as a financier with an interest in sport rather than a private equity investor.
Boehly launched the Chelsea takeover when the club was placed in sanctions by the British government last year and then put up for sale. He recruited Eghbali and Clearlake as a major investor and was the self-appointed director of football when the new ownership was launched into a transfer window last summer. The two subsequent transfer windows this year came to a conclusion at the end of last month with Eghbali in London overseeing the deals.
The pair have recruited heavily in executives as well as footballers. A new chief executive in Chris Jurasek has been hired to work at a Clearlake-affiliated company for the fourth time in his career. Claire Cronin, formerly of McLaren Racing, has arrived as chief marketing officer. In recruitment, the new co-sporting directors, Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, as well as Joe Shields, have been promoted and their roles expanded.
From the old regime, academy stalwarts Neil Bath and Jim Fraser have been promoted and their roles expanded.
The big plan of the two windows this year – the emphasis on signing players aged 25 and under, secured on long contracts, and a mass sale including that of academy golden-boy Mason Mount – came from the two men in charge. They believe that it offers them security over the club’s chief assets – the players – and ultimately a lower wage bill. Whether those players are capable of conquering English football is the big unknown.
The concern over players drifting into free agency can be traced back to the departures of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger in the first weeks of the consortium takeover.
Eghbali and Boehly were dismayed that players the club had signed, paid, and developed were leaving for no return. The long-contract strategy was in part a reaction to that. A typical five-year deal is, in reality, only a three-year deal before a decision has to be made on sale or renewal, lest the player may begin on the slide to free agency.