When Todd Boehly was asked to identify the key to his success in the boardroom, the American’s answer revealed a businessman who valued diplomacy above ruthlessness. ‘When I’m negotiating, the objective is not to get the best deal for myself but to make a deal that’s fair to all parties involved,’ Boehly told a school reunion in Maryland.
‘Most people try to wring every penny for themselves. That strategy earns them more money on one specific deal but it doesn’t build trust or long-lasting relationships.’
Boehly has certainly worked hard to satisfy the interested parties in the Chelsea takeover, beating a set of formidable opponents to become the preferred bidder, involving in his consortium two prominent season-ticket holders and promising fans he would rebuild Stamford Bridge rather than seek an alternative home.
Todd Boehly at the MLB game between the LA Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds this month
He also engaged the consultancy services of a former Chancellor’s firm shortly before the process sought Government approval. There might be some doubt over whether he will trump Jim Ratcliffe’s late bid to earn Roman Abramovich’s blessing instead, but there is no doubt Boehly has won hearts and minds over the past two months, much as he appears to have done elsewhere in life to date.
A sign of the respect that he can inspire in others can be drawn from the detail of that Landon School reunion in 2014. Five former class-mates turned up to the unveiling of a wrestling room named in his honour at the private education establishment. Boehly had served on the wrestling team that won an interstate championship in 1990 and 1991.
Two of Boehly’s teachers also attended, including Steve Sorkin, who taught maths and served as a mentor for the teenage Boehly even beyond his graduation. Boehly recalled seeking advice from ‘Sork’ when struggling at The College of William & Mary in Virginia, the second-oldest university in the United States after Harvard.
American tycoon Todd Boehly is on course to become the new Chelsea owner
‘College overwhelmed me, my grades started to suffer and I started to languish. So I came back to Landon and I talked to Mr Sorkin,’ said Boehly. ‘It was Sork’s idea to go study at the London School of Economics. He said, “You need a redo, so go find it”. And for that I’ll forever be grateful.’
The sojourn reinvigorated Boehly and is said to have inspired in him an enduring love of the city. On graduating with a degree in finance, his career then began in earnest in 1996 at CS First Boston in New York, the investment banking division of Credit Suisse.
From there he went to the venture capitalists JH Whitney & Co and on to Guggenheim Partners in 2001, launching a credit-management business for the financial services giant. His notable contributions to it included advising clients to avoid investing in several companies where major fraud was subsequently exposed, among them the energy company Enron.
Working alongside chief executive Mark Walter, also part of the Chelsea consortium, Boehly’s commitment helped him rise to the position of president and was illustrated in an anecdoted reported by Forbes.
Boehly’s business interests include NBA basketball side Los Angeles Lakers
According to its website, while assessing the insurance firm Security Benefit, Boehly abandoned a Kansas hotel because it smelled of cigarettes and slept on a park bench. Guggenheim bought the company for £318million.
‘I just kind of lived with a simple mantra, if I said I was going to do it I’d get it done,’ he told Yahoo last year. ‘And when you have a reputation for being able to get stuff done it’s amazing what stuff ends up piling up in your inbox.’
In 2015, Boehly, 46, realised a long-held ambition to set up his own business. He began by taking with him several of the assets acquired at Guggenheim, including film-industry bible The Hollywood Reporter, the TV company Dick Clark Productions, three years on from its £278m purchase, and Security Benefit.
Seven years later, Eldridge Industries holds assets worth £32billion, with stakes in dozens of businesses.
Its diverse portfolio includes Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, NBA side Los Angeles Lakers, the song catalogues of Bruce Springsteen and The Killers, as well as myriad technology and property interests. The latter includes Cain International, headquartered in London with Jonathan Goldstein, another member in the Chelsea bid, as its chief executive. Other key figures on Boehly’s team include Chelsea fans Daniel Finkelstein, a journalist, PR executive Barbara Charone, as well as ex-Chancellor George Osborne.
Boehly is known in the US for his philanthropy, having invested in his alma mater William & Mary as well as several medical charities. Among countrymen, however, he is perhaps most celebrated for his work with the Dodgers. Under Guggenheim’s management and with Boehly serving as a partner, the franchise’s World Series victory in 2020 was its first in 22 years. The TV deal he struck had been crucial to investing in the roster.
Boehly’s ambition had been realised. For, when asked what would constitute a successful ownership of the team, he said: ‘You’re not really asking me that, are you? The more World Series we win, the more valuable a franchise it is, right?’
Chelsea fans will hope he blends his diplomacy with similar bullishness if the bid gets rubber-stamped.