Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch, said on Wednesday that he will sell the Chelsea soccer club in England, in a bold step in reaction to international indignation over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the same time, Abramovich revealed that he has directed Chelsea to establish a foundation that would utilise all net earnings from the sale of the club to “help all victims of the war in Ukraine.”
The selling announcement came less than a week after the billionaire announced that he would hand up control of the club to trustees of a nonprofit organisation, and amid reports that Abramovich might face UK fines.
In a statement, Abramovich said, “As I have mentioned before, I have always made choices with the Club’s best interests at heart.” “In the current scenario, I have decided to sell the Club because I feel it is in the best interests of the Club, the fans, the staff, and the Club’s sponsors and partners.”
“Please know that this was a very tough choice for me to make, and it hurts me to leave the Club in this way,” he continued.
A Ukrainian lawyer questioned UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday over the absence of sanctions against Abramovich.
“Prime Minister, you’re talking about further sanctions.” Roman Abramovich, on the other hand, is not sanctioned. He is currently in London. His children are safe from the bombings. Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, stated, “His children are there, in London.”
Also on Tuesday, Johnson’s administration tabled legislation in Parliament aimed at “dirty money from Russia and abroad” that has been stashed in British assets.
Chelsea, situated in London, was purchased by Abramovich in 2003. Chelsea has won the Premier League and the famous FA Cup five times apiece during his stint at the club. Chelsea is presently third in the Premier League, trailing only Manchester City and Liverpool.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Biden administration announced the formation of a new task force to execute US and ally sanctions on Russian officials and oligarchs who have aided President Vladimir Putin’s assault in Ukraine.
“I’d want to address the media speculation in connection to my ownership of Chelsea FC over the last several days,” he stated in a statement. “As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve always made choices with the Club’s best interests in mind. In the current scenario, I have decided to sell the Club because I feel it is in the best interests of the Club, its fans, staff, sponsors, and partners.
“The sale of the Club will not be rushed, but will be conducted in accordance with the law. I’m not going to ask for any loans to be returned. For me, it’s never been about the money or the business; it’s always been about my love for the game and the club. In addition, I’ve directed my staff to establish a charity foundation to which the sale’s net revenues would be donated. The organisation will serve as a resource for all victims of Ukraine’s war. This involves giving crucial cash for victims’ immediate and urgent needs, as well as helping long-term healing efforts.
“Please understand that this has been a very difficult choice for me to make, and I regret having to part ways with the Club in this way. However, I feel this is in the Club’s best interests.
“I hope to be able to pay one last visit to Stamford Bridge to say farewell to all of you in person.” Being a member of Chelsea FC has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am proud of all of our accomplishments together. Chelsea Football Club and its fans will always have a special place in my heart.”
In 2003, he took over the English Premier League team and resurrected Chelsea, winning over a dozen trophies, including five Premier League crowns. However, his on-field performance pales in comparison to his purported links to the Kremlin.
Abramovich symbolically abandoned ownership of the club this week, amid calls to sell the team or at the very least criticise Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. In a statement, he stated that decision-making will be left to Chelsea’s foundation trustees.
“I have always seen my role as a custodian of the Club during my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, whose duty it is to ensure that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as develop for the future, while also playing a constructive role in our communities,” he added. “I have always made judgments in the best interests of the Club.”
These are the ideals to which I am still dedicated. That is why I am entrusting Chelsea FC’s leadership and care to the trustees of Chelsea’s charity Foundation today.
“I feel they are now in the greatest position to look after the Club’s, players’, staff’s, and supporters’ interests.”
The first signs that Abramovich could be selling the team appeared on Wednesday.
Hansjorg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire, informed Swiss media that he got an offer to buy Chelsea alongside three other individuals. The assertion was allegedly not disputed by Chelsea or Abramovich’s agents.
“Abramovich is attempting to sell all of his English homes, and he also wants to get rid of Chelsea as soon as possible,” Wyss told Blick in Switzerland. “Abramovich is asking for way too much right now.”
Wyss, on the other hand, stated that he would want a group to assist with the acquisition. Chelsea’s net worth is estimated to be $3.34 million.
While Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom claimed it would be “inappropriate” to comment on specific instances, Labour Party leader Keir Starmer targeted Abramovich.
Starmer stated, “We must stand up to Putin and those who support his government.” “Chelsea Football Club and other high-value assets in the United Kingdom are owned by Roman Abramovich. Because of his ties to the Russian government and his public associations with corrupt activities and practises, he is a person of interest to the Home Office.”
Chris Bryant of the Labour Party used parliamentary privilege to claim that Abramovich was already attempting to sell additional London properties in order to avoid being sanctioned.
“The concern is that by the time we get around to penalising Mr. Abramovich, he’ll have sold everything,” Bryant said.
In February, Abramovich was last seen in public during the Club World Cup final. After entertaining Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the stadium in November, he made his last public appearance during a match at Stamford Bridge last year.