… To donate proceeds to victims of Ukraine war
Roman Abramovich has sensationally confirmed that Chelsea is up for sale, with the Russian oligarch reportedly slapping a £3 billion asking price on the London club while also writing off the £1.5 billion debt he is owed from it.
In a surprise development just after 6pm on Wednesday, Russian Abramovich broke his silence to confirm he is in the process of selling Chelsea FC – with proceeds of the prospective sale to be donated to the victims of war in Ukraine.
The club had been put on the market, with a view to recouping at least £3billion, as Abramovich seeks to distance himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin and sanctions imposed on Russia by the west over its devastating and illegal invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement, Abramovich confirmed: “I would like to address the speculation in media over the past few days in relation to my ownership of Chelsea FC.
“As I have stated before, 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.”
Abramovich said he will not be asking to be repaid £1.5 billion in loans he has granted the club during 19 years of injecting cash to elevate the team into one of the most successful in Europe.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The speed of Abramovich’s pending exit from Chelsea is striking as he was trying to instigate a plan this past weekend to relinquish some control in order to keep the club under his ownership.
But as Russia’s war on Ukraine entered a seventh day, pressure was growing on the British government to include him among the wealthy Russians to be targeted in sanctions.
Earlier, it was reported that the billionaire had already begun a ‘fire sale’ of his sprawling London portfolio as he tries to offload Chelsea for £3 billion and £200 million worth of properties – with an MP claiming the Russian billionaire is acting quickly to stop his assets being frozen.
Labour’s Chris Bryant, using parliamentary privilege to avoid legal action, alleged the tycoon is selling his home and an apartment because he is “terrified of being sanctioned,” adding that he feared the government will soon run out of time to act.
Abramovich is worth £10.4 billion ($12.5 billion), according to Forbes, and owns a £150 million Kensington mansion, a £22 million penthouse, and more than £1.2 billion of yachts, private jets, helicopters and supercars in Britain and globally.
Chelsea FC is his most valuable British asset, after the oligarch transformed its fortunes from outside challengers to Premier League giants with the help of Jose Mourinho and huge signings like Didier Drogba, so its sale will be a personal blow to the billionaire industrialist.
Sources claim Abramovich believes Chelsea is worth north of £3 billion – but the likelihood of receiving such offers appears small. Indeed, it seems inevitable that the Russian businessman will have to lower his expectations.
There is a sense that securing an American buyer might be the club’s best route towards a sale as investment from China, the Far East and Eastern Europe has dried up for clear political reasons.
Nevertheless, there has been strong indications that Abramovich will receive at least two firm offers for the club by the end of the week. The danger of a potential buy-out being wrecked by Abramovich being sanctioned by the UK government has added urgency to the situation.
On Wednesday, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer pressed the Prime Minister on why Abramovich has not been sanctioned, claiming he had “links to the Russian state” and “public association with corrupt activity and practices.”
Johnson said it is not “appropriate’ for him to comment on individual cases. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has previously said she has a ‘hit list’ of oligarchs they are targeting, but has not named all of them.
Kremlin-linked billionaires are also facing fresh threats of asset seizures from the US, with Joe Biden using his State of the Union address to say America was coming to “seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets.”
Abramovich has never held UK citizenship, and made his fortune selling assets purchased from the state when the USSR broke up. He vehemently denies being close to the Kremlin or doing anything that would merit sanctions.
Immigration officials are reportedly under instructions to make it impossible for him to base himself in the UK. Scrutiny from MPs, and his status as the Britain’s best known Russian oligarch, makes him all the more vulnerable.
Abramovich has seven children from two of his ex-wives. The eldest, Anna, 29, is a Columbia University philosophy graduate who lives in New York, while Arkadiy, 27, is an industrial tycoon with substantial oil and gas investments.
Sofia, 26, lives in London and the ‘wild child’ ‘of the family, recently posted a message on Instagram attacking Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. Less is known about Arina, 20, and Ilya, 18, or Aaron, 11 and Leah Lou, 7, who were both born in New York to his third wife, Dasha.
Abramovich’s current location is unknown, but he has recently been in Belarus ‘trying to help’ negotiate an end to Russia’s war against Ukraine following its illegal invasion of the country.
The conflict entered its seventh day today, with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warning Russia was seeking to erase Ukraine and its people after officials said 2,000 civilians had been killed.