Chelsea’s new co-owner worth £3bn and owns Florida animal park with two tigers

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Chelsea fans are preparing to welcome their new owners with Todd Boehly's £4.25billion takeover set to go through in the coming days, with Mark Walter is one of the lesser known quantities from the American's consortium.

Walter, a billionaire philanthropist and co-owner with Boehly of the American baseball team LA Dodgers, has joined his business partner in buying the Blues as they move on from Roman Abramovich after 19 years under the Russian's ownership in west London. They are joined by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss in acquiring the Premier League outfit, with the deal set to be completed imminently.

But there are more than a few quirky characteristics about Walter that Blues fans may be interested to learn. Most pointedly, Walter has something in common with the main protagonist from the Netflix series Tiger King, Joe Exotic: the pair both have a passion for wild animals and owning conservation parks.

Walter, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is worth around £3bn and amassed his fortune after founding financial firm Guggenheim Partners in the early 2000s. The hedge fund is headquartered in Chicago and New York with more than $260bn (£205bn) in assets under management.

And so it is no surprise that he has picked up a taste for the extravagant. The Chicago-based tycoon is famous in the United States for his charity work and in 2013, purchased an animal park named White Oak Plantation in Florida that covers over 17,000 acres, with the purpose of keeping animals safe from extinction.

White Oak is home to over 200 animals, with many endangered or threatened species cared for including two male tigers, cheetahs and rhinos. At one point, Walter and his wife, Kimbra, saved 20 elephants that had been owned by a circus.

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Like most wildlife parks, celebrities ranging from Madonna to John Travolta have all visited over the years since the park was opened in 1982 by previous owner Howard Gilman. Even former U.S president Bill Clinton made the trip down to Florida to see the park back in 1999.

The Walters have made it their objective to protect species in danger of extinction after opening their doors in 2013: "Our primary mission is to build upon the work already under way at White Oak to create an international model for the humane and effective breeding and repopulation of endangered species."

It represents quite a shift in ideology from Abramovich, with the Russian oligarch funding his wealthy lifestyle through his sale of oil company Sibneft before sanctions from the UK government impacted his wealth. But with their three-month takeover hell nearly over, Blues fans can look forward to learning more of Walter's 'wild' side as the American consortium rolls into King's Road.

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