The sale of Chelsea has been hit by fresh controversy after Parliament was told to throw out the shortlisted bid from Stephen Pagliuca on the basis the club and Premier League must not be “contaminated” by “despicably corrupt business practice.”
Pagliuca co-owns Bain Capital and the investment firm is helping to fund his bid to buy Chelsea, for which he has been shortlisted by Raine, the bank looking after the sale, along with three other groups.
One of those groups, the Ricketts family, is already the subject of a fan protest and online petition, with questions also being raised over a meeting that was facilitated last week by Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, on behalf of Raine, between Tom Ricketts and former player Paul Canoville.
Sir Martin Broughton, who is heading another of the bids, was the target of criticism from Mark Farmaner, a director of Burma Campaign UK, regarding his involvement at British American Tobacco and the company’s alleged relationship with the Burmese military, on Twitter on Thursday.
And controversy has hit the bid of Pagliuca, who already owns a 55 per cent stake in Italian club Atalanta, although a spokesperson for Bain Capital insisted the company has been independent of Bain & Company, the firm at the center of allegations regarding South Africa, since 1984.
Raine plans to present a preferred bidder to the UK Government, who must approve the winning group ahead of issuing a license for the club’s sale while Roman Abramovich is sanctioned, in the week beginning April 18. The potential buyer must then pass the Premier League’s owners ‘and directors’ test.
Speaking under parliamentary privilege, Lord Peter Hain told the House of Lords: “As a Chelsea fan for 57 years, will the Government ensure that no winning bid loads debt on the club like the Glazers did to Manchester United?
“Will ministers also bar the Pagliuca Consortium bid headed by the chair of Bain Capital which remains highly entwined with Bain & Company, recently indicted by a South African Judicial Commission for acting ‘unlawfully’ and referred for prosecution.
“Bain cynically and ruthlessly disabled the country’s tax collecting agency by conspiring with the corrupt former president Zuma for an £8million fee. Chelsea and the Premier League must not be contaminated with such despicably corrupt business practice.”
Conservative Lords whip Baroness Penn, replying for the Government, said: “The Government does not want to pre-judge any decision Chelsea may make as it is a decision for them to ensure the best owners for the club are found.
“We would expect all due diligence and assessment of owners to happen before an application for a license for the sale of the club to be made, which then OFSI (Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation) would consider on its merits.”
Telegraph Sport has contacted spokespersons for Pagliuca and Broughton for comment.
Ricketts family aiming to win over fans
Lord Hain has previously urged Boris Johnson’s government to blackball Bain and his demand for Pagliuca’s bid to be rejected places further scrutiny on the Chelsea sale process.
The Ricketts family remains determined to try to win over Chelsea supporters, despite the fact fans are being urged to take their online #notoRicketts campaign to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with thousands of followers also signing a petition against their bid to buy the club.
The #notoRicketts campaign has been circulating online ever since the anti-Muslim emails of the family’s father Joe, who is not part of the Chelsea bid, were highlighted and comments attributed to other members of the family have also caused anger.
Chelsea entertain Brentford at Stamford Bridge on Saturday in the first game the club have played since four of the bidders, including the Ricketts, were shortlisted and two fan groups have attempted to organize peaceful protests against the family.
One online group has advertised a protest to be held at noon at Stamford Gate at Stamford Bridge, urging fans to bring banners and to be loud in their opposition against the Ricketts family, while another appealed for supporters to take banners inside the stadium.
The Brentford game is not being televised live in the UK, but it will be broadcast in America, where protestors hope the Ricketts will see it.
An online petition protesting against the prospect of the Ricketts family gaining control of Chelsea has also been set up by supporters and has so far attracted over 17,000 signatures.
Despite the opposition towards them, sources close to the Ricketts insist the family remain determined to address the concerns surrounding them. The family remain in discussions with Chelsea supporters’ groups and believe they can still present a positive vision for the club.
Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham Greg Hands, who held talks with the Ricketts, revealed on Twitter that he has also taken part in a “useful call” with the Todd Boehly bid. Hands revealed representatives of the group had also met the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust and Chelsea Pitch Owners, and added: “Good to hear of their plans to work with fans and community.”