How Abramovich was forced to sell disgraced Chelsea – The New Indian Express
LONDON: Standing by the bar in a small hospitality suite at Stamford Bridge was a figure who hadn’t been seen at the stadium for three years: Roman Abramovich.
Last November, the Chelsea owner was back in London at his English Premier League club to welcome the president of Israel. There was no obvious security entourage around the Russian billionaire and little noise, just a close associate and Chelsea manager, Eugene Tenenbaum.
After chatting with guests and posing for photos with President Isaac Herzog in front of the field, the party moved on to a tea party for about 50 people, complete with scones and cucumber sandwiches.
Abramovich was celebrated with speeches praising his work across Chelsea to campaign against anti-Semitism. It looked like Abramovich‘s gradual reintroduction into a more high-profile role around Chelsea, committed to his social activism.
There may have been a UK visa to recover after he withdrew his renewal application in 2018.
Then everything quickly changed from February 24 when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Three months later, Abramovich is replaced as owner of Chelsea by a group led by American investor Todd Boehly, a prospect unimaginable when the oligarch was on the pitch in Abu Dhabi on February 9 to lift the FIFA World Cup. FIFA clubs.
It would be the 21st and final men’s team trophy in 19 years at the helm, his wealth has transformed from glamorous but only occasionally competing for the biggest trophies, to one of the most successful in the game. European soccer.
Abramovich tried to hang on to Chelsea, even as anger over Russia’s unprovoked aggression towards its neighbor escalated, backed not just by loyal fans but also by club greats including John Terry, hailing him as “the best”.
Within hours of the start 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 grew for Abramovich to be sanctioned by the British government, which had already thwarted his efforts to get the visa back in recent years, according to a lawmaker.
Sensing the need to act, Abramovich proposed cosmetic changes to ownership on 26 February with a pledge to relinquish “stewardship and care” of the club to trustees of his charitable foundation.
They hadn’t endorsed the plan, however, and the vague proposal didn’t quell anger that a man accused of being so closely linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin could retain ownership of a high-profile status symbol. in the heart of London. .
Another public play to protect his reputation from Putin’s war came on February 28 when Abramovich’s public relations apparently pushed him to negotiate peace. Abramovich did not condemn the war, and he has yet to do so although he spoke of the need to publicly condemn the atrocities only two days before the invasion. The rare comments came in a statement launching a new partnership supporting the Jerusalem-based Holocaust museum.
“Yad Vashem’s work in preserving the memory of Holocaust victims,” Abramovich said, “is essential to ensuring that future generations never forget what anti-Semitism, racism and hatred can do. lead if we don’t talk”.
Yet Abramovich never practiced what he preached, even as Putin framed the war as a war of denazification, falsely called Ukrainian leaders “Nazis” despite President Volodymyr Zelenskyy being Jewish, and that areas were reduced to rubble by Russian shelling and shelling. Yad Vashem suspended its partnership with Abramovich, as did the Imperial War Museum in London, where he funded an exhibition on the Holocaust and held an event for him hours after Russia’s war on Israel began. ‘Ukraine.
It was only six days into the invasion when Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss leaked that Abramovich was in fact trying to get rid of Chelsea quickly and the club was publicly put up for sale.
“I hope,” said Abramovich, “that I can visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to you in person.”
A week later, any immediate hope of returning to London was ended by the government. Sanctions and travel restrictions were imposed on Abramovich, his assets were frozen and Chelsea were only allowed to operate under a government-issued license until the end of May.
The new match tickets could not be sold by Chelsea. Players could not receive new contracts. Even the merchandise shops had to close.
The task of finding a buyer for Chelsea has been given to New York-based investment bank Raine Group. A range of potential investors was made public, some owners apparently more viable than others, before the bank produced a shortlist of four bidders in early April.
The sale ended where it started with Wyss.
The Raine Group – working with Abramovich’s associates on the Chelsea board – ultimately selected the group featuring Wyss and led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Boehly with investment from Clearlake Capital.
The sale price was 2.5 billion pounds ($3.2 billion), the highest ever for a global sports team, with proceeds to be donated to a foundation supporting Ukrainian war victims. Boehly also had to commit to investing 1.75 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) in the coming years in teams and infrastructure.
The final stage of the process summed up how politically bound the process was with the necessary approval from British and European authorities who sanctioned Abramovich, guaranteeing that he would not profit from the sale.
It was an unceremonious end to his 19 years as owner.
After buying Chelsea for £140million in 2003, Abramovich was left with nothing. Not even a repayment of the £1.6 billion in loans he had to cancel to allow the club to be sold and continue playing.
However, it was never about money for Abramovich. Learn more about status and trophies earned.
“In hindsight, especially with the public profile it would bring me, I might have thought differently about owning a club,” Abramovich told Forbes a year before he lost control of Chelsea. “But, at the time, I had just seen this amazing game, and I wanted to be a part of it somehow.”
No more, in England at least.
Ultimately, however, the association with Putin that Abramovich spent so long trying to distance himself cost him the ability to retain ownership of Chelsea.