Faced with the threat of financial sanctions aimed at the Russians, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich confirmed on Wednesday that he was trying to sell the Premier League club he turned into an elite trophy-winning machine thanks to his lavish investment.
Abramovich’s trophy asset has made him a top target for politicians demanding he be included among wealthy and influential Russians hit by British sanctions after Russia’s week-long war on Ukraine.
“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part ways with the club in this way,” Abramovich said in a statement. “However, I think it’s in the interest of the club.”
This is one of the most astonishing business repercussions of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade neighboring Russia.
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“The sale of the club will not be expedited but will follow due process,” Abramovich’s statement added.
The Russian billionaire has said he will not seek repayment of 1.5 billion pounds (A$2.7 billion) in loans he made to the club during 19 years of cash injections to raise the team ranked among the most successful in Europe.
“I have asked my team to create a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” he said. “The foundation will benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine.”
Abramovich has been called on to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which he has so far failed to do.
Parliamentary privilege had been used by Labor Party lawmaker Chris Bryant to claim in the House of Commons on Tuesday that Abramovich was already looking to sell properties in London, speculating that “he is terrified of being sanctioned” .
The Blues won the Club World Cup for the first time last month – ahead of Abramovich in Abu Dhabi – after claiming a second Champions League title last year.
The speed of Abramovich’s impending exit from Chelsea is striking as he attempted to put in place a plan last weekend to relinquish some control in order to keep the club under his ownership. But the charity regulator has begun investigating an attempt to distance itself from decision-making at Chelsea for the first time by announcing plans to move the club’s ‘stewardship and care’ away from its founding trustees.
“I hope I can visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to you in person,” Abramovich said. “It has been the 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.”
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