Abramovich sells Chelsea following Russian invasion

LONDON (AP) — Faced with the threat of financial sanctions aimed at the Russians, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich announced on Wednesday that he was trying to sell the Premier League club that has become a trophy-winning machine thanks to its lavish investment.

The billionaire oligarch’s decision to sell his most high-profile asset is one of the clearest signs yet that Russia’s business elite is feeling the repercussions of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Owning Chelsea made Abramovich a household name in Britain, and politicians demanded that he be included on the list of wealthy and influential Russians under British sanctions because of the war.

“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it hurts me to part ways with the club in this way,” Abramovich said in a statement. “However, I think it’s in the club’s best interest.”

A potential buyer had previously gone public to reveal that Abramovich was trying to sell with a floating price of at least $2.5 billion. Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss said he “received an offer to buy Abramovich from Chelsea on Tuesday” along with three other people.

However, Abramovich insisted that ‘the sale of the club will not be expedited but will follow due process’.

Abramovich has said he will not ask to be repaid 1.5 billion pounds ($2 billion) in loans he gave the club over 19 years of cash injections to make the team the one of the most efficient in Europe. The set of every major trophy was completed last month when Chelsea won the Club World Cup.

“I have asked my team to create a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” he said. “The foundation will benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine.

Abramovich has been called on to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which he has so far failed to do.

Parliamentary privilege had been used by Labor Party lawmaker Chris Bryant to claim in the House of Commons that Abramovich was already looking to sell properties in London, speculating that “he is terrified of being sanctioned”.

Abramovich has not commented on attempts to seize his assets, which have grown from the fortunes he made in oil and aluminum during the chaotic years following the collapse of the Union. Soviet in 1991.

The speed of Abramovich’s impending exit from Chelsea is striking as he attempted to put in place a plan last weekend to relinquish some control to keep the club under his ownership, announcing his intention to transfer ‘the ‘stewardship and care’ of the club to its foundation trustees.

“I hope I can visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to you in person,” Abramovich said. “It has been the privilege of a lifetime to be part of Chelsea FC and I am proud of all our joint achievements. Chelsea Football Club and its supporters will always be in my heart.”

Chelsea had only won the league title once – in 1955 – when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Aided by a number of expensive signings, the club won the Premier League title two years later and has added four more since then, most recently in 2017.

Carrying 18 trophies in 19 years also includes two Champions League titles and the Club World Cup success he witnessed in Abu Dhabi last month.

His last public visit to a game at Stamford Bridge was last year after he also hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the stadium in November.

Abramovich rarely speaks in public but gave an interview to Forbes last year, explaining in part the purchase of Chelsea in 2003 for £140m including £75m in debt.

“In hindsight, especially with the public profile it would bring me, I might have thought differently about owning a club,” Abramovich told Forbes. “But, at the time, I had just seen this incredible game and I wanted to be a part of it somehow.”

Abramovich was the first of the mega-rich owners to enter English football, starting a trend that has continued with Manchester City benefiting from investments in Abu Dhabi since 2008 and the Saudi sovereign wealth fund buying Newcastle last year.

It’s unclear how the sale will affect Chelsea’s finances. There is a long-term need to revamp Stamford Bridge to generate more revenue from fans and businesses. Chelsea have the smallest and most dated stadium of the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with plans to rebuild the 41,000-seater site put on hold by Abramovich in 2018 as Anglo-Russian diplomatic tensions escalated. were intensifying.

Abramovich has not had a UK visa since 2018 when a renewal application was taking longer than usual and was withdrawn. It came at a time when Britain pledged to review long-term visas for wealthy Russians following the poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English town of Salisbury . Britain has blamed Russia for the couple’s exposure to a nerve agent, an allegation Moscow denies.

Abramovich’s ties to Putin have been the subject of speculation for years.

In 2012, a High Court judge in London highlighted Abramovich’s ties to Putin in a decision related to a legal battle. Judge Elizabeth Gloster said Abramovich had “very good relations” and “privileged access” to Putin, while adding that he could not “pull the presidential strings”. Abramovich denied taking orders from Putin.

The repercussions of the war also led to the loss of a key Russia-linked sponsorship at another Premier League club on Wednesday.

Everton has suspended deals with companies owned by Alisher Usmanov, an EU-sanctioned Russian metals tycoon. Usmanov’s businesses include USM which owns the naming rights to the training ground and has paid 30 million pounds ($40 million) for the same rights to a new stadium being built in Liverpool.


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