George Osborne, the former chancellor, has been parachuted in to help the Todd Boehly-Clearlake consortium clinch a takeover of Chelsea.
Sky News can exclusively reveal that Robey Warshaw, the City advisory firm that Mr Osborne joined last year, has signed up as an adviser to the consortium fronted by Mr Boehly.
The former Conservative minister, who left frontline politics in 2016 to amass a portfolio of private sector jobs including the editorship of the Evening Standard, is a lifelong Blues fan and season ticket-holder, and was pictured holding the Champions League trophy after Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in a penalty shootout in the 2012 final.
Osborne is also a close friend of Lord Finkelstein, The Times columnist who has agreed to join Chelsea’s board if Mr Boehly’s bid is successful.
Robey Warshaw is now working alongside Goldman Sachs as an adviser to the bid comprising Mr Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Hansjorg Wyss and others.
Roman Abramovich’s sanctioning by the government and disqualification by the Premier League as a director of the club he has owned since 2003 has left the Stamford Bridge outfit’s fate in the hands of ministers.
A preferred bidder is expected to be identified by Raine Group, the merchant bank handling the sale, in the coming weeks, when it will be recommended to the government in order to secure a special licence approving the sale.
The field of suitors for Chelsea shrank from four to three on Friday when a consortium involving the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family, the Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and the hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin withdrew from the process.
The consortium issued a brief statement to say that it had not submitted a final offer owing to “certain issues [that] could not be addressed given the unusual dynamics around the sales process”.
One source close to the Ricketts-led bid said that Mr Griffin had decided against committing to a binding offer.
The group’s decision leaves Boehly’s bid competing against one fronted by Sir Martin Broughton, the former British Airways and Liverpool chairman, and which includes funding from the Crystal Palace shareholders and private equity billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer; and a rival offer headed by Steve Pagliuca, the Boston Celtics co-owner, and Larry Tanenbaum, the NBA chairman who owns elite sports teams spanning football, basketball and ice hockey.
The True Blues Consortium – a Chelsea supporters’ group which counts former Blues captain John Terry among its founders – has thrown its weight behind Mr Pagliuca’s bid.
More than 10,000 Chelsea fans have expressed an interest in owning shares worth more than £150m as part of the deal that will see Mr Abramovich replaced as the club’s owner.
Sky News reported earlier this week that Boehly’s offer would in fact be dominated by Clearlake Capital, a San Francisco-based investment firm, which would own at least 50 per cent of Chelsea if its bid succeeds.
Boehly and his co-investors Mark Walter and Mr Wyss would own minority stakes, although they would share operational control of the club.
Jonathan Goldstein, a London-based property developer who works closely with Boehly, has also been involved in the bid.
Final bids, which were expected to value Chelsea at more than £2.5bn, thereby breaking the record for a sports club takeover, were tabled on Thursday.
Sources close to the remaining bidders say that Raine has told them it may await clearance from the Premier League for all of the consortia before presenting a preferred bidder to ministers.
Robey Warshaw declined to comment on Saturday, while Boehly’s consortium has been contacted for comment.