Barely days after handing over the club to its charity foundation for management, Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovic, Wednesday, put the English Premier League (EPL) giants, Chelsea FC for sale, as economic sanctions tighten on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
However, Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has said he is part of a consortium interested in buying the London-based club, which is also the defending UEFA Champions League winners.
Abramovich is open to offers after a hugely eventful five days in which he announced plans to relinquish the running of Chelsea and was said by the Labour MP Chris Bryant to be hastily selling UK properties to avoid potential financial sanctions.
Abramovich’s decision to transfer the stewardship and care of Chelsea to the trustees of the club’s charitable foundation came after a call in parliament for him to face sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. The 55-year-old, who has vehemently disputed reports suggesting his alleged closeness to Vladimir Putin and Russia or that he has done anything to merit being sanctioned, is ready to sell at the right price.
Sources have said that at least one other group is preparing to bid for Chelsea this week. There is a sense that a bidding war would help Abramovich maintain some form of leverage during the process and potentially increase the asking price for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Interested parties are looking to move swiftly in case Abramovich is sanctioned by the UK government, at which point it is unlikely a sale would be permitted. Chelsea have declined to comment.
Wyss said he had been asked to join a consortium of “six or seven investors” looking to buy the club and that Abramovich wanted a sale, though the 86-year-old added that the current asking price was too high. Abramovich has loaned Chelsea £1.5bn since buying the club in 2003.
“Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England, he also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly,” Wyss told the Swiss newspaper Blick. “I and three other people received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich. I have to wait four to five days now. Abramovich is currently asking far too much. You know, Chelsea owe him £2bn. But Chelsea has no money. As of today, we don’t know the exact selling price.”
Wyss, worth a reported £4.3bn, said that he would not act alone and Blick reported that his consortium also comprised three American businessman for now. “I can well imagine starting at Chelsea with partners,” he said. “But I have to examine the general conditions first. But what I can already say: I’m definitely not doing something like this alone. If I buy Chelsea, then with a consortium consisting of six to seven investors.”
Abramovich’s plan to transfer the stewardship of Chelsea to the foundation’s trustees has run into obstacles. Some trustees have concerns over Abramovich’s plan and the Charity Commission has contacted the foundation for more information after a serious incident report was reported to the regulatory body. The trustees are likely to want an impenetrable indemnity policy in place if they are to go ahead with the proposed change to the club’s structure. That would ensure they are not liable for any financial ramifications on their watch.
On Wednesday Sir Keir Starmer pressed Boris Johnson at prime minister’s questions to sanction Abramovich. The Labour leader told the Commons: “We must stand up to Putin and those who prop up his regime. Roman Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea Football Club and various other high-value assets in the United Kingdom. He’s a person of interest to the Home Office because of his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices.
“Last week, the prime minister said that Abramovich is facing sanctions. He later corrected the record to say that he isn’t. Well, why on earth isn’t he?”
Johnson said it was not “appropriate” for him to comment on individual cases at this stage.