Longtime Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich confirmed that he will sell the club on Wednesday. The move comes amid mounting calls in the United Kingdom for him to face sanctions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Dialogue with interested parties had begun earlier this week after Abramovich’s attempts to distance himself from the club by handing its stewardship over to Chelsea’s charitable foundation hit roadblocks. Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has already publicly expressed an interest in a deal while claiming that there are three other contenders. Wyss is part of a consortium that is understood to include Todd Boehly, part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Sparks.
Notably, Abramovich has confirmed he will “not be asking for any loans to be repaid.” Chelsea’s most recent accounts showed that they owed around $2 billion to their owner, who has financed a remarkable level of spending over the 19 years since he bought the club for just over $230 million. Abramovich says the “net proceeds” of the sale will be distributed to the victims of the war in Ukraine through a foundation he will set up.
“The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine,” Abramovich said. “This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.”
Previous statements from both Abramovich and the club had not acknowledged the Russian invasion but instead spoke of the “situation in Ukraine.” Though the 55-year-old did not go so far as to address Russian actions, describing it as a war is notably divergent from the Kremlin, who have labeled it a “special military operation.”
Abramovich had come under pressure to publicly disavow himself from Putin or face sanctions from the UK government. Speaking under parliamentary privilege, Chris Bryant, chair of the All Party Parliamentary group on Russia, had warned that the Chelsea owner was looking to sell assets before action was taken against him. “The danger is that Mr. Abramovich will have sold everything by the time we get round to sanctioning him,” Bryant said on Tuesday.
In his statement, Abramovich described the decision to sell as “an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner.” He expressed a desire to return to Stamford Bridge in the future “to say goodbye to all of you [supporters] in person.” Abramovich was last seen with Chelsea at last month’s FIFA Club World Cup where Thomas Tuchel’s side lifted the only trophy they had not previously won in their owner’s tenure.
Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea statement in full
“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.”