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Russian Chelsea owner to sell football club, MLB fails to reach deal with baseball players

Yahoo Finance's Josh Schafer details how Chelsea Football Club's owner Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is seeking to sell the team with promises to donate funds towards victims of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and how negotiations between the MLB and the Player's Association to end the lockout have stalled.

Video Transcript


ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome back, everybody. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich announced today that he plans to sell the Chelsea Football Club, and will donate the proceeds to help Ukraine war victims. Yahoo Finance's Josh Shafer here now with more details. And Josh, I know that he had come under pressure right away to sell the team, right after Russia invaded Ukraine.

JOSH SHAFER: Yeah, Alexis, it's a story we've been following for a little over a week now. And it seemed, earlier in the week, like maybe Abramovich was just going to kind of separate himself publicly from Chelsea, but not necessarily financially. Turns out today, as rumors are swirling in the media, Chelsea comes out with an official statement from Abramovich, that he intends to sell the club.

So the Premier League club is one of the most expensive in the world. We should note it's an estimated $3.2 billion per Forbes, and that's about 2.3 billion in pounds in England, where the club is. And Abramovich said the sale isn't planned to be fast-tracked, they're going to take their time. And he won't be asking for any of the estimated 1.5 billion pounds he's loaned Chelsea over the last 19 years as he's owned the club.

Part of his statement here, he said that he, said, quote, "I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated. The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long term work of recovery."

So now we're sort of left to see who's going to be interested in the club itself. Should mention several American ownership groups do own Premier League clubs. I'd expect some American billionaire or billionaire group to be interested in this club, and we'll see what happens there.

And then the other big thing to watch here is going to be what does happen with that foundation. Does the foundation-- where does the money exactly go that is going to be given in this charitable foundation? And how is it used, I think, is going to be an interesting to watch, thing to watch, as this sort of progresses.

KARINA MITCHELL: Hey, Josh, and then switching gears back here at home, major problems for Major League Baseball. Fans have to wait longer for the start of the season because of the lockout. Bring us up to speed on what's happening with the negotiations there. And then what does it mean for businesses and brands, as well, tied to the season and they rely on it?

JOSH SHAFER: Yeah, Karina, so where we're at now is we're going to have the first stoppage in baseball. No games being played for the first time since the '94 - '95 strike. Late afternoon yesterday, the MLB declined what the league claimed was their best offer. It included some gameplay concessions, but sort of fell short of what the Players Association wanted financially.

One of the key sticking points here is the-- it's critical point is the competitive balance tax, which is essentially the soft salary cap the MLB has. The MLB doesn't have the salary cap, how much teams can pay players, that a lot of other leagues have.

So they have this competitive balance tax. The MLBA's proposed competitive balance tax was about $33 million off from what the MLB was giving it. The MLB proposed no move up in this competitive balance tax. The players essentially just want to be paid more.

So they're off on a few other sticking points, too, that I wanted to point out. They're off about $55 million for pre-arbitration players. So that's younger players that are outperforming their contracts. They want those players to get more money, and the MLBPA and the MLB completely disagree on that. There's two sides-- the two sides are also off by about $25,000 on the starting minimum league salaries, so they're way far off on those as well.

And so we're showing some of the graphics now that I wanted to point out that kind of illustrate what the players are arguing here. So, you can see, the player average salary there is pretty stagnant from 2017 through 2019, and starting in 2016. If we go to the other full screen that we have that shows how much the league makes, the league revenue, you can see that's a pretty big increase from 2016 to 2019.

So we pretty much have the players saying, hey you made about 1.3 billion more dollars in 2019 than you did in 2016, but our average salary isn't moving at all. What's up with that? And the final argument that they really make with that, that we showed as well, is MLB players' minimum salary is lower than every other sport. They just want to make as much money as some of these other sports, and especially these lower-level players want to get paid.

Right now, the sides seem pretty far apart. They're not even in active negotiations anymore, they're not in the same place talking. So, I don't think we're going to see any movement here for a little while, guys.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Unfortunate for all us baseball fans. All right, thanks a lot, Josh Shafer.