How Abramovich was forced to sell Chelsea in the fall of grace

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Standing at the bar in the small Stamford Bridge Hospitality Suite was a figure who hadn’t been seen in the stadium in three years: Roman Abramovich.

Last November, the Chelsea owner returned to London at an English Premier League club to host the Israeli president. There was no clear security entourage around the Russian billionaire and no interference, only close friend and Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum.

After a small chat with guests and photos with President Isaac Herzog in front of the field, the party moved on to an evening tea event for about 50 people, with scones and a cucumber sandwich.

Abramovich was given a speech praising his work through Chelsea for his campaign against anti -Semitism. It looks like the gradual reintroduction of Abramovich into a higher role around Chelsea again, which is linked to social activism.

There is, possibly, a UK visa that will be obtained after he cancels his application for renewal in 2018.

Then everything changed rapidly from February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Three months later, Abramovich was replaced as owner of Chelsea by a group led by American investor Todd Boehly, an unimaginable prospect when the oligarchs were on the field in Abu Dhabi on February 9 while hosting the FIFA Club World Cup.

This will be the 21st and last men’s team trophy in 19 years running the team, whose wealth changed from glamor but only occasionally competing for the biggest trophy, to one of the most successful in European football.

Abramovich tried to belittle Chelsea, despite his anger at Russia’s unprovoked aggression against my neighbor growing, not only supported by his loyal fans, but also by the club’s great players including John Terry who considered him “the best”.

Within hours of the war, Abramovich was accused in the House of Commons of having links to corrupt activities and paying for political influence in Russia. Demands are growing for Abramovich to be enforced by the British government, which has hampered efforts to get a visa again in recent years, according to legislators.

Feeling the need for action, Abramovich offered a cosmetic change to the ownership on Feb. 26 with a promise to hand over the club’s “management and care” to the trustees of the charitable foundation.

However, he has not yet signed the plan, and the vague proposal does not dampen anger because people accused of being too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin could retain ownership of a high-profile status symbol in the heart of London. .

Another public play to shield his reputation from Putin’s war came on Feb. 28 when PR Abramovich pushed a sensible move for him to broker peace. Abramovich did not condemn war, and he did not do so despite talking about the need to punish atrocities just two days before the invasion. The rare comment was in the claim that it launched a new partnership supporting the Jerusalem -based Holocaust museum.

“Yad Vashem’s work to preserve the memory of the victims of the Holocaust,” Abramovich said, “is important to ensure that future generations will not forget what anti -Semitism, racism and hatred can cause if we do not speak out.”

However, Abramovich never did what he preached, even though Putin considered the war to be one of denigration, mistakenly calling the Ukrainian leader a “Nazi” even though President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was a Jew, and the territories were devastated by Russian bombings and bombings. Yad Vashem postponed a partnership with Abramovich, as well as the Imperial War Museum in London, where he funded a Holocaust exhibition and hosted an event for him a few hours after the start of the Russian war in Ukraine.

It was only six days into the invasion when Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss leaked that Abramovich was actually trying to get rid of Chelsea quickly and the club was sold to the public.

“Hopefully,” Abramovich said, “I’ll be able to visit Stamford Bridge a second time to say goodbye to you all.”

A week later, hopes of an immediate return to London were dashed by the government. Sanctions and travel bans were imposed on Abramovich, his assets were frozen, and Chelsea were allowed to operate only under the terms of a government -issued license until the end of May.

Tickets for the new match cannot be sold by Chelsea. Players cannot be given a new contract. Even merchandise stores have to be closed.

The job of finding a buyer for Chelsea was placed at New York -based commercial bank Raine Group. Several prospective investors became public, some owners looking more promising than others, before the bank released a list of four bidders in early April.

The sale ended where it started with Wyss.

The Raine Group – working with Abramovich associates on Chelsea’s leading board – eventually chose a group featuring Wyss and fronted by Boehly, part -owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, with an investment from Clearlake Capital.

The sale price was 2.5 billion pounds ($ 3.2 billion), the highest ever for a team in world sport, with proceeds having to go to foundations supporting Ukrainian war victims. Boehly will also have to promise to invest £ 1.75 billion ($ 2.2 billion) in the coming years in teams and infrastructure.

The last stage of the process encapsulated how it laced the politics of the process with the required approval of the British and European authorities that sanctioned Abramovich, ensuring that he would not profit from the sale.

It was an unceremonious end to his 19 years as owner.

After buying Chelsea for £ 140 million in 2003, Abramovich got nothing. It didn’t even repay the 1.6 billion pound loan that had to be thrown away in order for the club to be sold and continue playing.

But it was never about money for Abramovich. More about the status and trophies of winning.

“In the end, especially with the public profile that will bring me, maybe I’ll think differently about owning a club,” Abramovich told Forbes a year before losing to Chelsea. “But, at the time, I was just looking at this incredible game, and I wanted to be a part of one or the other.”

No more, in the UK at least.

But, in the end, the association with Putin that Abramovich took so long to rid himself of the cost he could retain ownership of Chelsea.


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