Sir Jim Ratcliffe has announced the submission of a late £4 billion offer to buy Chelsea.
Three groups made final pitches to complete a takeover at Chelsea to the US-based merchant bank Raine Group earlier this week, with bids in excess of £2.5 billion reportedly lodged by consortiums led by Steve Pagliuca, Todd Boehly and British duo Sir Martin Broughton and Sebastian Coe.
A new contender has emerged at the last minute in the form of Ratcliffe, who is the owner of the British petrochemicals company INEOS. He held talks with Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck on Thursday before making his offer.
What have Ratcliffe and Ineos said about Chelsea
INEOS now appear to be the highest current bidders for Chelsea, with the club's search for new owners having been triggered by the sanctions imposed by the UK government on Roman Abramovich due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ratcliffe has told The Times of his company's late bid: “We put an offer in this morning. We are the only British bid. Our motives are simply to try and create a very fine club in London.
"We have no profit motive because we make our money in other ways.”
INEOS, meanwhile, have added in an official statement: “Sir Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of INEOS, has made a formal bid for Chelsea FC, for £4.25bn.
"£2.5bn is committed to the Charitable Trust to support victims of the war, with £1.75bn committed to investment directly into the club over the next 10 years. This is a British bid, for a British club.
“We believe that London should have a club that reflects the stature of the city. One that is held in the same regard as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. We intend Chelsea to be that club.”
GOAL's view on the Chelsea takeover
GOAL correspondent Nizaar Kinsella: "It has been a chaotic hour following the bidding process to buy Chelsea FC. Stephen Pagliuca and Larry Tananbaum's consortium is confirmed to be out.
"Sir Martin Broughton's is rumoured to have followed with Todd Boehly's expected to have gotten through to direct talks about buying the club from Roman Abramovich.
"The red herring is Sir Jim Ratcliffe's £4.25 billion bid which has come after the process ended and could cause anger among the others.
"It's unclear whether it is allowed or has been accepted at such a late stage but it is some power play from Britain's richest man."