LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska Examiner) — A group led by the Ricketts family has dropped its effort to buy an English professional soccer club that is currently owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets reported Friday.
The effort to buy the Chelsea club had spawned protests in England over Islamophobic comments made by Joe Ricketts in emails leaked to the news media in 2019.
Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, apologized for the emails, which included a comment that “Islam is a cult and not a religion.”
In the emails, one of Joe Ricketts’ sons, Gov. Pete Ricketts, attempted to warn his father about the comment.
Pete Ricketts left the board of directors of the Cubs three years ago. He has said he left management of the family-owned ball club to focus on his work as governor.
The group seeking the Chelsea purchase was led by Tom Ricketts, chairman of the board of the Chicago Cubs, but also included investors Ken Griffin, owner of Citadel LLC, and Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, an NBA franchise.
In a statement issued Friday, the group stated it had decided, “after careful consideration,” to not pursue a final bid for the Chelsea club.
“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,” the statement read. “We have great admiration for Chelsea and its fans, and we wish the new owners well.”
Abramovich took over Chelsea in 2003 but had his assets frozen by the British government in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich had put the Premiere League club up for sale just prior to the government’s move.
According to Forbes, the Chelsea club was purchased for about $190 million in 2003 and is now valued at $3.2 billion.
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