Roman Abramovich to Sell Chelsea FC and More Amid Global Sanctions on Russia

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Mar. 2 2022, Published 11:20 a.m. ET

Russian billionaire, oligarch, and owner of Chelsea Football Club in the United Kingdom, Roman Abramovich is looking to sell the football club and other properties. U.K. sanctions against Russia may be to blame.

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Abramovich, whose last reported net worth estimate was $15 billion, originally bought Chelsea FC for 140 million pounds in 2003. It’s possible that the Russian business mogul’s assets are frozen and he’s seeking liquidity in a global economy that’s heavily sanctioning Russia.

Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich will likely sell the club.

On Saturday, Feb. 26, Abramovich attempted to pass off control of Chelsea to its trustees. The move was likely an attempt to avoid personal sanctions from the U.K. government.

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Abramovich lives in Moscow and holds EU citizenship through his Portuguese passport. He made this transition in December 2021 as tensions between the U.K. and Russia grew.

During that time, U.K. foreign secretary Liz Truss warned Russia that the U.K. would impose sanctions if it entered Ukraine. “Any Russian incursion would be a massive strategic mistake and would be met with strength, including coordinated sanctions with our allies to impose a severe cost on Russia’s interests and economy,” Truss said at the time.

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Now, that threat is a reality, and Abramovich must do what he has to in order to avoid sanctions.

If the trustees don't take over Chelsea — which they don’t seem inclined to do since they’re a charitable foundation — a sale would be imminent.

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Who would buy Chelsea from Abramovich?

Suitors are already lining up to buy Chelsea despite its own financial struggles. Chelsea won the Champions League this year, but the team still incurred a loss of 145.6 million pounds after taxes, which makes it financially dependent on parent company Fordstam Limited. Naturally, Abramovich owns that company, too.

Swiss businessman Hansjoerg Wyss reported that Abramovich approached him and three other interested parties on Tuesday, March 1 about selling Chelsea.

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According to sources, Abramovich values Chelsea at 3 billion pounds, or nearly $4 billion. However, due to the team’s losses, it has about 2 pounds billion in loans that trace back to Abramovich. So, anyone who buys Chelsea is really compensating Abramovich.

Unfortunately for Abramovich, selling Chelsea might be more difficult than he hopes. In addition to the losses, the team’s home stadium, Stamford Bridge, requires renovation. Abramovich initially wanted to tear down the 41,800-seat stadium and rebuild a new one to accommodate a fresh-faced 61,000-seat venue. However, those plans got shelved in 2018 and any new owner will likely have to start from scratch.

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Abramovich may also sell his U.K. real estate.

According to reporters, Wyss said Abramovich is “currently trying to sell all his villas in England.”

The U.K. isn’t messing around with Russian sanctions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson first said that the U.K. would impose personal sanctions on Abramovich last week, but retracted it. Johnson then said on March 2 that he plans to publish a full list of people who are associated with the Putin regime, which suggests that there will be personal sanctions on these individuals.

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