Dan Gilbert, Cubs owners group ends interest in buying Chelsea

Rob Harris
Associated Press

A group that included Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert along with the owners of the Chicago Cubs has decided to end its interest in buying Chelsea, leaving three remaining bids.

The decision was announced after the deadline to submit offers for the Premier League club that is being sold by sanctioned Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

More:Dan Gilbert, whose bid for Detroit MLS team fizzled, eyes Chelsea soccer club

The bid was being led by Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts but faced opposition from Chelsea fans over Islamophobic comments by his father, Joe, that featured in leaked emails three years ago.

The consortium that included American investors Ken Griffin and Gilbert did not directly address the “issues” that prevented them pursuing the bid ahead of Thursday's deadline for final submissions.

“The Ricketts-Griffin-Gilbert Group has decided, after careful consideration, not to submit a final bid for Chelsea FC,” the group said in a statement. “In the process of finalizing their proposal, it became increasingly clear that certain issues could not be addressed given the unusual dynamics around the sales process. We have great admiration for Chelsea and its fans, and we wish the new owners well."

The remaining three known bids also involve North American sports team investors.

Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca has partnered with Larry Tanenbaum, who has ownership stakes in Toronto with the NBA’s Raptors, the NHL’s Maple Leafs and the city’s MLS team. Peter Guber, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is also backing the group.

Another part-owner of the Dodgers, Todd Boehly, is leading another consortium.

The third remaining known group is fronted by former Liverpool and British Airways chairman Martin Broughton with planned investment by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who own the Philadelphia 76ers and have stakes in Premier League club Crystal Palace.

A New York-based merchant bank, the Raine Group, has been overseeing the sale process that was announced last month by Abramovich following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The oligarch has been sanctioned by Britain and the European Union over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin with assets frozen, including Chelsea.

Abramovich has been disqualified from running the reigning European champions by the Premier League and he cannot profit from the proceeds of the sale, which the British government must sign off under terms of a license that allows the team to continue operating.

Gilbert's Rock Entertainment Group, which recently named Nic Barlage its new chief executive officer, includes the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, the NBA G League's Cleveland Charge, the NBA 2K League's Cavs Legion, and the AHL's Cleveland Monsters.

Gilbert, who was part of an effort that eventually fizzled to bring a Major League Soccer team to Detroit, is a Michigan State and Wayne State alumnus who co-founded Quicken Loans and founded Rock Ventures. His companies sponsor the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the city's first annual PGA Tour tournament, held at Detroit Golf Club.

Chelsea’s Champions League title defense was ended by Real Madrid on Tuesday but Thomas Tuchel’s team is on course to qualify for the lucrative UEFA competition next season as it is third in the Premier League. Chelsea remains in contention for the FA Cup with a semifinal match against Crystal Palace on Sunday.