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Saudi consortium makes £2.7bn offer for Chelsea Football Club

Saudi media executive Mohamed al-Khereiji is leading a consortium bidding for the English club, whose owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by UK government
A Saudi media consortium has made a bid to buy Chelsea Football Club (AFP)
By Oscar Rickett in London

A Saudi consortium led by media executive Mohamed al-Khereiji has made a £2.7bn ($3.5bn) offer to buy Chelsea Football Club. 

British media reported on Monday that the Saudi Media Group was looking to buy the English football club, whose current owner, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, has been sanctioned by the UK government in the wake of the war in Ukraine. 

According to his LinkedIn page, Al-Khereiji is the chief executive of outdoor advertising company Al-Arabia, chairman of Saudi Media Company, and chairman of MBC Media Solutions, the commercial advertising and sales arm of MBC Group, a media conglomerate owned by the Saudi government. 

A Chelsea fan, al-Khereiji, 50, was educated at the London-based Cass Business School (now known as Bayes Business School) and worked as an analyst at Deutsche Bank in the British capital.

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CBS Sports journalist Ben Jacobs, who initially reported the bid had "no direct government links", said it nevertheless had "support in finding funding and partners (but not financial backing as far as I am told) from Mohammed bin Khalid al-Saud", chairman of the state-owned Saudi Telecom Company.

In December, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns 80 percent of Premier League football club Newcastle United, raised $3.2bn from the sale of six percent of its shares in Saudi Telecom, which is the most profitable mobile phone operator in the Middle East. 

On Saturday, the Premier League confirmed that they had suspended Abramovich as director of Chelsea.

The billionaire, who is accused by the British government of having longstanding links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has had his assets in the UK frozen.

Abramovich, who served as governor of the eastern Russian province of Chukotka from 2000 to 2008, during Putin's first two terms as president, continues to deny links to the Russian leader.

On 2 March, Abramovich, who also holds Israeli and Portuguese citizenship, announced his decision to sell Chelsea. He is thought to be looking for £3bn ($3.9bn) for the club.

British property developer Nick Candy is reportedly also working on a bid for Chelsea, said to be £2.5bn ($3.2bn). Sources in the City of London told Middle East Eye that Candy was getting funding support from US hedge fund Citadel. 

The sources also told Middle East Eye that the Saudi consortium's bid was "unlikely to get the green light", given its perceived proximity to the Saudi government.

The Saudi bid is, however, billed as being spearheaded by a private consortium with no direct link to Riyadh. It does not at this moment anticipate being blocked. 

Chelsea are currently operating under a special license that is seriously limiting the club's revenue streams.

The suspension of Abramovich has led to a heated debate about sportswashing in English football, with attention drawn to Newcastle United's Saudi ownership, particularly in the wake of the execution of 81 people in a single day by Riyadh, the largest mass execution of prisoners in the country's modern history. 

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