Roman Abramovich has put Chelsea up for sale, while in a shock move sure to raise eyebrows in his native Russia, he has confirmed that he will not ask for his £1.5 billion loan to the club to be repaid and will donate all net proceeds to the victims of the war in Ukraine.
On one of the most dramatic days in the history of Chelsea, it also emerged that Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and American businessman Todd Boehly have teamed up to make an offer.
Interested parties have been invited to make official bids by March 15 and offers were expected to be submitted this week. There were even claims at least one offer had already been made, but Abramovich’s declaration that the club is for sale and that he will donate the proceeds to war victims in Ukraine, may alleviate some of the need to rush through a deal.
Wyss had claimed that four parties had been invited to bid for Chelsea, but interest in the club could now grow.
British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer yesterday asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson why Abramovich had not yet been sanctioned, but the fact he is prepared to make a huge donation from the Chelsea sale to those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could ensure that his assets are not frozen or seized, at least in the short-term.
In a statement, Abramovich said: “I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.
“The sale of the club will not be fast-tracked, but will follow due process. I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and club. Moreover, 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.
“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner. However, I do believe this is in the best interest of the club.
“I hope that I will be able to visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to all of you in person. It has been a 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.”
Abramovich signed off the statement: “Thank you, Roman.”
Abramovich has instructed Raine, the New York-based merchant bank, to find buyers and it is believed he values Chelsea at around £4bn. Sources close to the process claimed that interested parties were ready to bid in the region of £2bn, but Abramovich may have pushed that price up with the declaration of his intentions.
It could also help spare him immediate sanctions, despite Starmer addressing the Prime Minister by saying: “Last week, the Prime Minister said that Abramovich is facing sanctions. He later corrected the record to say that he isn’t. Well, why on earth isn’t he?”
Wyss was travelling back to New York, where he lives, when Abramovich made his statement on Wednesday, when it emerged that one of his backers is Boehly, who part owns the Los Angeles Dodgers and had a £2.2bn bid for Chelsea turned down in 2019.
Despite going public with his interest in buying Chelsea, it is unlikely that 86-year-old Wyss would be the frontman of a bid, or the main financial backer, with Boehly more likely to take a leading role and the pair talking to other American investors.
Boehly is worth an estimated £5bn and Wyss, whose fortune is valued at £3.8bn, has already worked with him before at the holding company Eldridge Industries.
The Premier League is understood to be braced for the possibility of needing to carry out a fit and proper persons test should Wyss and Boehly, or any other group, agree a price with Abramovich.
Abramovich has attempted to distance himself from Russian president Vladimir Putin, but, speaking to Swiss newspaper Blick, Wyss said: “Like all other oligarchs, he (Abramovich) is also in a panic. Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly. I and three other people received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.
“I have to wait four to five days now. Abramovich is currently asking far too much. You know, Chelsea owe him £2bn.
“As of today, we don’t know the exact selling price. I can well imagine starting at Chelsea with partners. But I have to examine the general conditions first. But what I can already say: I’m definitely not doing something like this alone. If I buy Chelsea, then with a consortium consisting of six to seven investors.”
Boehly has previously spoken of his desire to buy a Premier League club, saying: “Football’s the biggest sport in the world, the passion the fans have for the sport and the teams is unparalleled. So what you are trying to build with these teams, you are really trying to a) win and b) be part of the community.
“The opportunity we had with the Dodgers was really about part-ownership with Los Angeles, how are we going to win, how are we going to drive championships and how are we going to build passion. If you look at what the Premier League offers, it’s all of those things.
“The billion-pound question is the price. It’s hard to buy quality and not have to pay up. Then it’s a question of can you continue to build on what you’ve acquired at that price? That’s the question. I continue to believe there is a global opportunity for the best clubs. Ultimately, it comes down to can something get done that both sides think makes sense?”
Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe, who is worth around £12.5bn, has looked into a bid to buy Chelsea in the past but was put off by the asking price and sources close to him claim he is not currently interested in buying a Premier League club.
Ratcliffe bought French club Nice, who are third in the Ligue 1 table, in 2019, and Ratcliffe previously claimed that the difficulty in relocating Chelsea or rebuilding Stamford Bridge had put him off making a bid for the club.
He told the BBC: “There was some early exchange but we were a significant way apart on valuations. The issue with Chelsea is its stadium. We are all getting older and it is a decade of your life to resolve that.”
Ratcliffe also said: “We won’t look elsewhere until we have had a good run here [at Nice]. We need to find out how to be successful before you ever want to write a big cheque. It’s quite difficult.”
Another potential interested party is believed to be Loutfy Mansour, the Egyptian chief executive of Man Capital, the investment arm of his family’s business Mansour Group. The 33-year-old is a season ticket holder at Stamford Bridge and believes that he can put together a bid for the club, according to sources.
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship star Conor McGregor posted a message on his Twitter account suggesting that he is interested in making a bid for Chelsea. But, despite being listed as the wealthiest sportsperson with an estimated fortune of £141m, he would need to find big financial backing.
Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 and last month the club completed the full set of trophies won during his 19-year reign by lifting the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.
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