LONDON (AP) – Faced with the threat of financial sanctions targetting Russians, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich announced early yesterday he is trying to sell the Premier League club that became trophy-winning machine thanks to his lavish investment.
“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner,” Abramovich said in a statement. “However, I do believe this is in the best interest of the club.”
One potential buyer Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss had already gone public to reveal Abramovich was trying to sell with a price tag of at least USD2.5 billion floated. However, Abramovich insisted that “the sale of the club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process”.
Abramovich said he will not be asking to be repaid GBP1.5 billion (USD2 billion) in loans he has granted the club during 19 years of injecting cash to elevate the team into one of the most successful in Europe. The set of every major trophy was completed last month when Chelsea won the Club World Cup. “I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” he said. “The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.”
The speed of Abramovich’s pending exit from Chelsea is striking as he was trying to instigate a plan this past weekend to relinquish some control in order to keep the club under his ownership, announcing plans to shift the “stewardship and care” of the club to its foundation trustees.
“I hope that I will be able to visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to all of you in person,” Abramovich said.
“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.”
Chelsea had won the league title only once when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. The club won the Premier League title two years later and has added four more since then, most recently in 2017.
The haul of 18 trophies in 19 years also includes two Champions League titles and the Club World Cup success he was in Abu Dhabi to witness last month.
Abramovich was the first of the mega-rich owners to enter English football, starting a trend that has continued with Manchester City and Newcastle.
It is unclear how the sale will affect Chelsea’s finances.