Roman Abramovich: Chelsea FC owner has announced he is selling the club
But the 55-year-old’s glittering reign in west London is close to an end, with a consortium of billionaires already making their interest in a deal public.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and USA investor Todd Boehly are understood to be two of the parties joining forces and now preparing a bid for the Blues.
“I would like to address the speculation in the media over the past few days in relation to my ownership of Chelsea FC,” read Abramovich’s statement.
“As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart.
“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.”
The 86-year-old billionaire Wyss has admitted he will look into the details of any possible deal to buy Chelsea, with the asking price thought to push beyond £2billion.
“Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England, he also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly,” Wyss told 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 £2 billion. But Chelsea has no money.
“As of today, we don’t know the exact selling price.”
Abramovich attempted to step back from the daily running of Chelsea on Saturday, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Blues boss has tried to hand the “stewardship and care” of Chelsea to the club’s charitable foundation trustees.
That led the Charity Commission to contact the Stamford Bridge club for more detail on Abramovich’s plans, after several of the trustees raised concerns over technicalities.
The Chartered Governance Institute UK & Ireland (CGIUKI) told the PA news agency on Wednesday the proposal posed “considerable risk” to Chelsea’s Foundation.
“While there are reports today that Mr Abramovich is seeking to sell Chelsea FC, his proposal on Saturday involving the club’s charitable arm raises a number of serious charity governance concerns,” CGIUKI said in a statement.
“To accept Mr Abramovich’s offer would pose considerable risk – both financial and reputational – for the charity and its trustees. They must consider whether taking on a £500m club carrying recent losses of £153.4m will have a detrimental effect on the charity’s ability to carry out its activities, particularly given its current income of only £5million.
“Taking on the club’s reported £1.5bn loans from Mr Abramovich could result in the trustees and the foundation losing the ability to act independently, especially in the light of the present lack of clarity regarding the degree of authority, not to mention ownership, that is being transferred.
“In the interests of upholding good governance, we recommend that the Chelsea Foundation’s trustees refer to the Charity Governance Code. They should consider their legal duties under charity law and whether the charitable purposes of the Foundation will be supported by such a move.
“In accordance with the Code, the trustees should also consider whether they possess the relevant skills and experience needed to manage an entity of Chelsea FC’s size and complexity.
“We are pleased to hear that the Chelsea Foundation has decided to report Mr Abramovich’s proposal to the Charity Commission and we await with interest the outcome of their deliberations and further legal advice.”
Labour MP Chris Bryant has called for the UK Government to impose sanctions on Abramovich after a number of Russian oligarchs have already fallen under such penalties.
Abramovich is understood to have attempted to hand control of Chelsea to the foundation trustees in a bid to protect the club.
The Chelsea owner would not receive any protection from sanctions through stepping away from daily control at Stamford Bridge.
Abramovich’s spokesperson told the PA news agency on Monday that the Russian-Israeli businessman was attempting to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
Swiss billionaire Wyss, who founded medical device firm Synthes USA, insisted he could only consider a deal for Chelsea with a clutch of investment partners.
“I can well imagine starting at Chelsea with partners,” said Wyss.
“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.”