Roman Abramovich has confirmed he will sell English Premier League giant Chelsea as reports suggest he faces having assets seized.
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has confirmed he is selling English football giant Chelsea.
Abramovich, who bought the team in 2003, announced via a club statement he was putting the Premier League club up for sale and confirmed he would not ask for his $2.7 billion worth of loans to be repaid, with proceeds from the sale to go to victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The sale is a seismic moment for English football after nearly two decades of Abramovich’s team consistently challenging for the sport’s top honours.
Chelsea — which has reportedly been valued at around $5 billion — has won 19 major trophies in the Abramovich era, including their first two Champions League crowns and five Premier League titles.
Speculation mounted on the weekend Abramovich was going to sell when he handed over the stewardship of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
The move comes as English government officials called for action to be taken against Russian billionaires who have dealings in the UK.
The 55-year-old is also reportedly set to be banned from living in Britain as a result of being classified a person “of interest” because of his links to “corrupt activity and practices” with senior Russian officials.
English member of parliament Chris Bryant this week singled Abramovich out when calling for a crackdown on “illicit finance and malign activity” as focus intensified on those with links to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Bryant took his campaign another step forward on Wednesday, saying: “Roman Abramovich, well I think he’s terrified of being sanctioned, which is why he’s already going to sell his home tomorrow, and sell another flat as well.
“My anxiety is that we’re taking too long about these things.”
Abramovich, whose fortune is worth nearly $19 billion according to the latest data from Forbes magazine, is now facing a fire sale of his assets in the UK, which includes a property portfolio worth a staggering $360 million.
‘Crazy’: World reacts to huge call
The football world was quick to react to the major news. Sports business expert Joe Pompliano was stunned Abramovich isn’t asking the club to pay back his loans.
“The crazy part? Abramovich isn’t requiring Chelsea to repay the $2 billion he personally loaned the club & says that all net proceeds will be donated to victims of the war in Ukraine,” Pompliano tweeted.
Abramovich came under fire in some quarters for failing to condemn Putin in his statement.
“The comments about Ukraine were his strongest yet addressing the impact of Russia’s invasion, and its effects on its neighbour and its residents. His words, however, stopped short of condemning President Putin, or Russia, for launching military action,” wrote Rory Smith and Tariq Panja of the New York Times.
British media personality Piers Morgan tweeted: “Abramovich sells Chelsea — but still doesn’t say a single word of condemnation for what his mate Putin’s done.”
Luton Town played Chelsea on Thursday morning in the FA Cup and while Blues supporters sung Abramovich’s name, Luton Town fans booed.
Chief sports writer for The Times, Matt Lawton, said Abramovich was under pressure to sell as he elaborated on the shock decision.
“As you would normally expect in the business of football he would walk away looking to make a profit but he’s not. He’s not going to make a penny. He’s actually going to lose money,” Lawton told Times Radio.
“He’s been under massive pressure, statements have been made in parliament.
“This we did not anticipate, the structure of this deal we did not anticipate. It does mark an extraordinary day in the history of sport, just as it did back in 2003 when he bought the club.
“Because of what’s happened in Ukraine, because of Vladimir Putin’s actions, he’s got to go.”
Who will buy Chelsea?
UFC star Conor McGregor tweeted on Thursday morning suggesting — likely tongue in cheek — he was interested in buying Chelsea, including a screenshot of a text exchange about the club being up for sale.
“I wish to explore this. @ChelseaFC,” he wrote.
Hansjorg Wyss, one of Switzerland’s richest men, said he had been offered the chance to buy the Blues. The 86-year-old, who founded the medical device manufacturing firm Synthes, told the Swiss newspaper Blick that he and three others had been sounded out on Tuesday.
But Wyss wants Abramovich to lower his asking price for the English Premier League side.
“Abramovich is among Putin’s closest advisers and friends,” Wyss told Blick, before official confirmation the Russian had put the English Premier League powerhouse up for sale.
“Like all the other oligarchs, he is panicked. Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly. Along with three other people, I received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.
“I have to wait four or five days. Abramovich is asking too much right now. Chelsea owes him $3.7 billion. But Chelsea has no money. This means that those who buy Chelsea must compensate Abramovich.
“We do not yet know the exact sale price. I can very well imagine myself joining Chelsea with partners. First I have to look carefully at the conditions.
“I certainly wouldn’t do such a thing alone. If I buy Chelsea, it will be with a consortium of six to seven investors.”