Chelsea lose in £400m battle for Battersea

HE MAY have earned a reputation for gazumping rivals in the football transfer market, but this time billionaire Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is the one who has been outbid.

Abramovich had hoped to move the recent Champions League winners across the Thames to Battersea Power Station but yesterday saw his plans effectively sunk by a £400m offer from Malaysian companies SP Setia and Sime Darby.

The joint bidders have signed an exclusivity agreement with administrators from Ernst & Young, allowing them 28 days to carry out due diligence and complete the purchase of the 39-acre site in Wandsworth.

Developer SP Setia and the property arm of plantations group Sime Darby have promised a “multi-use real estate regeneration project” which will include a new Underground station at Battersea.

Chelsea said in a statement that the club was “disappointed not to be selected as preferred bidder”, adding that they would “speak with more confidence once the exclusivity period is over” or a deal completed.

Blues chiefs instructed architects KPF to draw up plans to turn the grade II listed building into a 60,000-seater stadium. Under the blueprints, one of the stands was to be housed in the existing structure, with the iconic chimneys retained.

Abramovich is keen to relocate the club from Stamford Bridge, which has a capacity of 42,000, to a bigger, more modern stadium that would allow it to significantly increase its matchday earnings. Failure of the Battersea bid would constitute the latest in a series of setbacks to those plans and threaten to force him into a major rethink.

Their hopes of moving to Earls Court were dashed in February by a rival housing project and an attempt to buy the freehold to Stamford Bridge rejected by a fan-led group late last year. The Premier League club has also examined the possibility of moving to a former Dairy Crest site in White City, but are thought to have been put off by the cost of the land, which has been priced at £220m.