Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams joined the battle to buy Chelsea on Thursday with the sporting superstars each pledging about £10million to the bid fronted by Sir Martin Broughton.
Former British Airways and Liverpool chairman Broughton is battling two consortiums led by American billionaires Todd Boehly and Steve Pagliuca to complete a £2.7billion purchase of the club, with Roman Abramovich expected to make a decision next week in consultation with US bank Raine.
The sums pledged by Hamilton and Williams are inconsequential to the overall sale process, but Broughton’s team are hoping they will add stardust to their offer, with the seven-time Formula One world champion’s involvement also cementing their status as the most British of the three bids.
The sporting greats appear unlikely investors in a Premier League club, but Williams already has a stake in Angel City FC, the LA-based franchise who play in the National Women’s Soccer League.
The pair are also good friends, with Williams having attended several grands prix as Hamilton’s guest and the F1 driver spending much of his spare time on the west coast of America.
In addition to their stellar sporting careers Hamilton and Williams have both invested widely in recent years. Serena Ventures, the tennis star’s venture capital fund, this week announced an investment in OpenSponsorship, a British-based sports technology start-up, while Hamilton has backed early-stage companies such as Zapp, the London-based rapid grocery delivery app.
Hamilton’s proposed investment in Chelsea is a personal affair, with no one else from Mercedes or the world of Formula One involved.
Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams are prepared to pledge £10million to Sir Martin Broughton’s bid to buy Chelsea
Hamilton, a seven-time F1 champion, has been open in the past about supporting Arsenal
Williams, meanwhile, is a part owner of Los Angeles-based women’s team Angel City
He is on record as saying he is an Arsenal fan, if not a diehard one, but is hoping that his involvement could have a positive effect on diversity and inclusion at Chelsea and in the club’s local community.
Having initially shied away from confronting controversial issues at the start of his career Hamilton has become a vocal anti-racism campaigner in recent years and was one the first global stars to embrace taking the knee following the murder of George Floyd.
In 2020 the 37-year-old launched the Hamilton Commission in conjunction with the Royal Academy of Engineering in a joint project to find ways in which motorsport and the engineering industries can engage more young people from diverse backgrounds.
Broughton would become chairman of Chelsea if his bid is successful, but the bulk of the funding is being provided by the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who would have to sell their shares in Crystal Palace should they buy another club.
Sir Martin Broughton is fronting the bid involving Williams and Hamilton to buy Chelsea
The Broughton-led group’s other investors include Canada’s Rogers family, who holds a big interest in the media and telecoms company Rogers Communications; John Arnold, who chaired the Houston 2026 FIFA World Cup bid committee; and the Tsai family, who own baseball teams in Taiwan.
World Athletics president Seb Coe is also involved in the consortium.
Chelsea, the current Champions League holders, have been up for sale since March – shortly before Russian owner Roman Abramovich was hit by sanctions from the government due to his ties to Russia president Vladimir Putin.
Raine Group, the bank who are overseeing the Chelsea sale, could pitch their preferred bidder to the government as soon as this week.
Steve Pagliuca (left) and NBA chairman Larry Tanenbaum (right) have committed to a lifetime ownership of Chelsea if they win the right to buy the club
Williams, meanwhile, is a part-owner of Los Angeles based women’s team Angel City who will play their first match this year.
‘I think that’s really cool for athletes to own something. It’s interesting, because you have a different type of pride when you’re there and you’re playing for something that you own,’ Williams said of her involvement in an Instagram live session with actress Natalie Portman, who is also a part owner of Angel City.
‘It’s not really done in tennis, so it’s really interesting to have an opportunity to do that in a different sport. It would be a wonderful feeling to have that. You want to play better, to play harder – not only are you playing me, you’re playing me in my stadium.’
Raine Group, the bank overseeing the Chelsea sale, could recommend their preferred bidder by the end of the week to the government
Steve Pagliuca, the owner of NBA team Boston Celtics, is leading a rival bid to buy Chelsea and also owns a stake in Italian Serie A team Atalanta.
He has partnered up with Larry Tanenbaum, who backs the Toronto Maple Leafs, and have committed to ‘lifetime ownership’ of Chelsea if their joint bid to buy the club is successful.
The other bid in the running is fronted by LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.