Roman Abramovich has confirmed reports that he has decided to sell Chelsea with the proceeds going to a charitable foundation benefiting victims of the war in Ukraine.
The Russian-Israeli billionaire has owned the Blues since 2003 and helped steer the Stamford Bridge club to 19 major trophies.
But the 55-year-old’s glittering reign in west London is close to an end, with a consortium of billionaires already making their interest in a deal public.
“I would like to address the speculation in media over the past few days in relation to my ownership of Chelsea FC,’ read Abramovich’s statement.
“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.”
Abramovich has put Chelsea up for sale but according to sources, will struggle to get the £3billion he wants for the club.
The oligarch has instructed American bank the Raine Group to handle the sale of the west London side.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss claims he has been approached ad is considering making an offer as part of a consortium which includes co-owner of the LA Dodgers Todd Boehly, who has shown previous interest in buying the club.
As revealed by MailOnline on Wednesday morning, Abramovich wants a return of at least £3bn for the Stamford Bridge club.
Sources claim Abramovich believes Chelsea is worth north of £3bn – but the likelihood of receiving such offers appears small.
Indeed, it seems inevitable that the Russian businessman will have to lower his expectations, with doubts emerging that he will receive anywhere near the £3bn he is said to deem acceptable.
Chelsea’s debt to Abramovich, who took over the Blues in 2003, currently stands at £1.5bn.
There is a sense that securing an American buyer might be Abramovich’s best route towards a sale as investment from China, the Far East and Eastern Europe has dried up for clear political reasons.
However, Abramovich’s reported links to a Russian regime that has caused so much destruction in Ukraine could lead to reluctance from interested parties to deal with Chelsea.
Similarly, Chelsea are facing apprehension from rival clubs to deal with them in summer transfer window, or at the very least being hardballed during negotiations.
Reports suggest prospective signings are now uneasy about joining Chelsea given Abramovich’s connections with Vladimir Putin’s Russian regime, particularly if the businessman remains at the helm.
Nevertheless, there has been strong indications that Abramovich will receive at least two firm offers for the club by the end of the week – but whether the bids are close to the sort of money the tycoon is looking for remains to be seen.
The danger of a potential buy-out being wrecked by Abramovich being sanctioned by the UK government has added urgency to the situation.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned Boris Johnson in Parliament on why Abramovich hasn’t yet faced sanctions, with the Prime Minister saying: “It is not appropriate to comment on individual cases at this stage.”
The Raine Group first acted for Chelsea in 2018 after talks with US private equity firm Silverlake and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe broke up without reaching an agreement.
The club has effectively been for sale ever since due to Abramovich’s conflict with the UK government after the Home Office declined to issue him a visa, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine giving him fresh impetus to sell.
Speaking to Swiss newspaper Blick, Wyss said: “Like all other oligarchs, he (Abramovich) is also in a panic. Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly. I and three other people received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.
“I have to wait four to five days now. Abramovich is currently asking far too much. You know, Chelsea owe him £2bn.
“As of today, we don’t know the exact selling price. I can well imagine starting at Chelsea with partners. But I have to examine the general conditions first. But what I can already say: I’m definitely not doing something like this alone. If I buy Chelsea, then with a consortium consisting of six to seven investors.”
However, there is doubt whether a consortium style takeover would have longevity given the huge financial demands expected at a club the size of Chelsea.
Nevertheless, it is clear now that Abramovich is preparing his Chelsea exit strategy.
It emerged on Tuesday that Abramovich is trying to sell his portfolio of London properties.
it is understood that the Russian has spent time in the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks with a view to transferring part of his wealth there.