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Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is ready to sell the club and has set a deadline of Friday to hear "indicative offers" from interested parties, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. He confirmed his intentions with a statement on the Chelsea website that it's in the best interest of the club for him to sell now.
The Russian oligarch has owned the club since 2003 and is reportedly looking for at least $2.5 billion. Abramovich said on Saturday he was ceding ownership of the club to members of its charitable foundation. He said in a statement they were "in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff, and fans" and did not mention a potential sale.
The moves come amid talk of sanctions by the British government against wealthy Russians following the country's invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich, who is close to Putin, said in his statement net proceeds from the sale would be donated to help the needs of those in Ukraine.
I would like to address the speculation in media over the past few days in relation to my ownership of Chelsea FC. 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 sale of the Club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process. I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and Club. Moreover, I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated. The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.
Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the Club in this manner. However, I do believe this is in the best interest of the Club.
I hope that I will be able to visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to all of you in person. 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.
Interested parties reportedly include Todd Boehly, part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Why is Chelsea owner selling?
Both moves are made in the wake of sanctions levied against Russia after the country's invasion of Ukraine last week. Britain has proposed legislation targeting wealthy Russians such as Abramovich, who has a close and long-standing relationship with president Vladimir Putin.
Abramovich recommended Putin to then-president Boris Yeltin for the job. British authorities had already been taking tougher stances against Russian nationals over the past few years, and Abramovich has been named in recent days as a target for sanctions. British politician Sir Keir Starmer asked Boris Johnson about him on Wednesday.
Boris Johnson has said it's 'not appropriate' to comment on any potential sanctions for Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, after being questioned by Sir Keir Starmer. pic.twitter.com/hb0VUNS4PR
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) March 2, 2022
Abramovich has rarely watched Chelsea play in England since withdrawing his application for a British visa in 2018. The British government reviewed tier 1 investor visas for nearly 700 wealthy Russians between 2008 and 2015, per The Guardian.
Abramovich has reportedly met with the Raine Group, a New York advisory firm, in recent days to find a new owner. Interested parties are to have an outlined bid ready by Friday.
Who could buy Chelsea?
Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who resides in the U.S., told Swiss newspaper Blick he "and three other people" received an offer on Tuesday to buy the club.
“Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England; he also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly,” Wyss told Blick, via translation in the New York Times. “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.”
Wyss told Blick he would have to wait four or five days and would make an offer if he could get six or seven investors.
Boehly, a billionaire investor, is also potentially involved after making a reported $3 billion offer for the club in 2019. He is a co-owner of the Dodgers, NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks. He recently attempted to purchase the NWSL's Washington Spirit.
Whether serious or not, UFC fighter Conor McGregor shared a screenshot from WhatsApp that read, "Chelsea for sale £3bn. Let’s buy it.” He shared it on Twitter and tagged Chelsea.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) March 2, 2022
Abramovich purchased Chelsea for approximately $190 million in 2003 and it was recently valued at $3.2 billion by Forbes.