Abramovich ‘open to selling Chelsea’ – reports

The Russian owner of the London football giants is said to be seriously considering a sale amid pressure on the UK government

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is said to be considering selling the club amid Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine and pressure from the UK government to freeze his assets, according to reports.

The 55-year-old, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, announced he was handing over “stewardship and care” of the reigning Champions League winners to its trustees on Saturday.

According to ESPN, however, sources have told the outlet that the trustees are seeking legal advice before they respond to Abramovich’s request due to concerns that a charitable foundation isn’t suitable to run a football club.

In the meantime, Abramovich is understood to be seriously considering selling the Blues amid the UK government receiving pressure to freeze his assets and those of other notable Russians in Britain.

Abramovich and Chelsea have often stressed that the club is not for sale. But sources told ESPN that Abramovich has valued it at around £3 billion ($4 billion) in the past, with Swiss business tycoon Hansjoerg Wyss claiming Abramovich contacted interested parties this week to sound out potential interest in taking over the reins.

The Telegraph reports that Abramovich’s figure to sell is £4 billion ($5.3 billion).

“Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly now. I, along with three other people, received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich,” Wyss said to Swiss newspaper Blick on Wednesday in an interview.

“Abramovich is asking for far too much at the moment. You know: Chelsea owes him £2 billion ($2.4 billion). But Chelsea has no money. Meaning: those who buy Chelsea should compensate Abramovich,” Wyss added.

Wyss’ claims are partly-supported by the club’s latest accounts showing that Abramovich is owed over £1.5 billion ($2 billion) in loans through Fordstam Limited, a parent company which he controls.

A loss of £145.6m ($194 million) after tax for the financial year until June 30, 2021, was recorded when Chelsea announced their updated accounts despite winning the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto on May 29, with the club admitting its reliance on Fordstam Limited “for its continued financial support”.

If the claims are true, Abramovich faces a race against time to sell up as the UK government freezing assets such as Chelsea would mean he cannot sell or inject funds into the club.

Other parties possibly contacted for taking over the club which Abramovich bought for £140 million ($186.5 million) include American businessman Todd Boehly, who showed interest in buying a London outfit before the pandemic, and Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe once reportedly held preliminary talks with Abramovich regarding a possible purchase, though Ratcliffe’s brother Bob told BBC Radio in February this year that the parties were “a significant way apart on valuations.”

Another sticking point is the renovation of Chelsea’s stadium Stamford Bridge and increasing its capacity from 41,800 seats to 61,000. Abramovich’s initial plans to oversee the work in 2018 had to be shelved when his UK investor visa expired, but as the site is owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners, it would not be included in any potential sale of the club. 

Abramovich’s near two-decade rule at Chelsea has seen the club lift 21 trophies with the most recent a maiden Club World Cup triumph in Abu Dhabi at the expense of Brazilian Copa Libertadores winners Palmeiras.

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