Ukraine-Russia: the oligarch owner of Chelsea FC renounces “stewardship” and could seek to sell before the sanctions

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has handed over the “management” of Chelsea FC as his financial future remains uncertain amid sanctions linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich released a statement On the Chelsea website on Saturday, saying he had ‘always considered his role as caretaker of the club’ and said handing ‘stewardship’ over to trustees of the Chelsea Charitable Foundation would keep the ‘best interests of the club at heart’ “. He made no mention of ownership or plans to sell the club, but reports claimed he was either looking to sell the club or cash in on a substantial $2 billion loan.

After Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the West responded with swift condemnation and severe punishment. Abramovich has yet to be named by the UK on its list of sanctioned individuals.

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If the sale goes through, Abramovich would want to get the value of his loan – $2bn – rather than the club’s current value, meaning it would rank as the biggest takeover not just in England but in Europe. in its entirety.

In 2003, Roman Abramovich bought the then mediocre English football team Chelsea FC and transformed it into one of the most recognized and valuable sports franchises on the planet. Sports Illustrated in 2021 cited a valuation of around $1.084 billion.

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But Abramovich has long had a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his predecessor Boris Yeltsin. In 1996, Abramovich moved into an apartment in the Kremlin at the invitation of the Yeltsin family and, at the start of Putin’s regime, helped the young leader form his first cabinet, personally vetting each candidate.

Abramovich has since fiercely defended his independence from Putin over the past year. He last appeared publicly at the FIFA Club World Cup to celebrate Chelsea’s victory, but has since disappeared.

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The Telegraph reported that his private jet was tracked in flight to Moscow on Thursday, noting there was no guarantee Abramovich himself was on board.

And while his fate remains unknown, so does Chelsea’s future: British ministers have called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to strip Abramovich of his property.

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Labor MP Chris Byrant told Business Questions on Thursday that he had access to documents from 2019 linking the oligarch to “malicious activity”.

“Surely Mr. Abramovich shouldn’t be able to own a football club in this country anymore? Surely we should consider seizing some of his assets…and making sure other people who have had Tier 1 visas like the latter are not engaged in malicious activity in the UK,” Bryant said, according to The Guardian.

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But Abramovich could seek to sell the club or cash in on his loan to the club in order to get cash before sanctions, which would freeze his assets or any sterling assets for him, according to Bloomberg.

Sports investors and private equity firms, including some American ones, have begun to draw up takeover bids. A person involved in the case said Chelsea carried out an investigation this month.

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