The four bidders for Chelsea will have to make their final offers on April 11, clearing the way for a new owner to seek government approval to take over from Roman Abramovich by the end of the month.
Raine Group, the merchant bank coordinating the Blues’ sale, has informed the remaining bidders that binding proposals must be made on or around that date – which falls the day before the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid.
Bidders, who include numerous billionaires who control sports franchises in the United States, will have the option to strengthen their first proposals, which helped them advance to the final stages of one of the most spectacular corporate auctions in recent memory.
Raine informed the four finalists on Saturday that they must invest at least £1 billion in the club in the future if they are to succeed in ending Abramovich’s two-decade reign.
The extra funds must be used to improve the Stamford Bridge stadium, the Blues’ playing squad, and other areas of development.
Raine’s demand on a pool of funds for investment is likely to reassure supporters that the new owner would continue to back it with the kind of substantial financial resources that the Russian-born industrialist provided.
Chelsea FC’s long-standing difficulty of the extension of Stamford Bridge, which has a capacity barely half that of Manchester United’s Old Trafford home, means that all four of the surviving bids have substantial experience in sports stadium development.
The final bidders control or possess stakes in US teams such as the Boston Celtics, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Sacramento Kings, among others.
Former British Airways and Liverpool FC chairman Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Coe, a former British Olympian turned sports administrator and businessman, are leading a proposal backed by Josh Harris and Dave Blitzer, two wealthy American financiers.
Vivek Ranadive, an Indian-born entrepreneur, is also part of the group, as is a syndicate of other investors from around the world whose identities will be revealed in the following days.
Another strong competitor is Todd Boehly, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is joined by Jonathan Goldstein, a London-based property developer, and Clearlake Capital, a US-based investment business.
A third group includes the Ricketts family, which owns the Chicago Cubs, and Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder of the Citadel hedge fund, with US financial bank Lazard in talks to advise them.
The Cubs’ chairman, Tom Ricketts, flew to London last week to address fan concerns over his father, Joe, making Islamophobic remarks a decade ago.
People close to the bid have denied that Joe Ricketts is involved, pointing to the family’s successful ownership of the team, which includes winning the World Series for the first time in a century and completing a $1 billion (£760 million) renovation of Wrigley Field, one of America’s most historic sports venues.
A bid led by Stephen Pagliuca, an American private equity tycoon who owns the Boston Celtics and Atalanta in Italy’s Serie A, is the other surviving bidder for Chelsea.