Three bids have been made to purchase English Premier League club Chelsea by groups led by British property developer Nick Candy, Chicago Cubs owners the Ricketts family and the pairing of Martin Broughton and Sebastian Coe.
Premier League Chelsea were initially put up for sale by owner Roman Abramovich following Russia's invasion of Ukraine before sanctions were imposed on the oligarch by the British government, effectively giving it control of the club.
Raine Group, a U.S. bank, has been overseeing the sale process since before the Russian billionaire was sanctioned, and set a 2100 GMT deadline on Friday for offers to be submitted, a deadline three bids have so far officially met.
South Korean companies Hana Financial Group and C&P Sports Limited have joined forces with Candy to bid two billion pounds ($2.64 billion) for Chelsea, a statement from Candy said on Friday.
It added that the consortium also includes "significant investors from Silicon Valley and tech billionaires that own other shareholdings in sports teams in the USA."
"Football clubs are vitally important community and cultural assets, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give football back to the fans and put them at the heart of the operations and strategy of a leading global football club," Candy told Reuters in a statement.
"I believe Chelsea has all of the fundamentals to become the most valuable and respected sports club in the world and a force for the greater good in everything it does."
C&P Sports CEO Catalina Kim had earlier confirmed to Reuters that they and Hana were considering a bid.
"We are in the process of arranging our bid for Chelsea FC," a statement read. "Surprisingly enough, despite the size of the economy, there has never been investment into (English) Premier League football clubs made by South Korean capital so far.
"Now it is time for a change and we are ready to start the new chapter with Chelsea FC."
The owners of U.S. baseball team the Chicago Cubs, the Ricketts family, confirmed to Reuters that they had also made a bid for Chelsea, in conjunction with Citadel founder Ken Griffin.
Former British Airways chairman Broughton has teamed up with president of World Athletics Coe to become the third party to make an offer late on Friday.
"I am assembling a team that will ensure the future success and financial stability of a club I've supported for over 60 years," Broughton said in a statement.
"We will secure a prompt purchase and smooth transition, with funds readily available for the immediate takeover of the club and immediate investment in the team, facilities, and commercial opportunities.
"I believe I am the right person to lead Chelsea as we start this new chapter for the club."
Further bidders are expected to be confirmed in the coming days, with a source close to the dealings telling Reuters that Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss, who has linked up with LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly, British businessman Jonathan Goldstein and Conservative peer Daniel Finkelstein, has also submitted an offer.
Turkish businessman Muhsin Bayrak, who had previously expressed interest in the club, said late on Friday that his company AB Group Holding had not filed a bid to Raine Bank.
Bayrak blamed AB Group's failure to meet the deadline due to a misunderstanding with his lawyers over the auction procedure. "I am very upset," he told Reuters.
According to emails seen by Reuters, AB Group's lawyers contacted the UK Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport using a generic email address to file an enquiry, rather than to file a bid to the U.S. investment bank.
Hana Financial Group is a South Korean investment bank and financial services company headquartered in Seoul, Korea. The group is also the title sponsor of the Korean Football League and the national soccer team.
C&P Sports Limited is a leading sports consultancy company based in London and Seoul.
C&P Sports has worked on commercial deals with several big clubs in the last 10 years, such as Kumhos Tyres with Tottenham Hotspur, Nexen Tyre with Manchester City and Hyundai Motors with Atletico Madrid.
Candy, a lifelong Chelsea fan, had been joined by former Blues player and manager Gianluca Vialli as he prepared his bid.
"I have met Nick Candy on a number of occasions over the last few weeks and I am fully behind his visions," Italian Vialli said in a statement after it was announced the company he co-founded, Tifosy, will act as lead advisor for the process.