Roman Abramovich says net proceeds from sale of Chelsea will be donated to a foundation "for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine"; Russian billionaire has owned Chelsea since 2003; spokesperson says there is "no substance" to reports of Jim Ratcliffe's interest
Friday 4 March 2022 10:32, UK
A spokesperson for British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has said there is "no substance" to reports he is interested in buying Chelsea after Roman Abramovich announced he is planning to sell the club.
The Russian billionaire released a statement on Wednesday - just before Chelsea's FA Cup tie at Luton - saying he is seeking to sell the Blues, a decision he believes "is in the best interest of the club".
Abramovich's move comes amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and American investor Todd Boehly are understood to be two of the parties interested in buying Chelsea from Abramovich, but Ratcliffe is not adding his name to that list.
A spokesperson for his company INEOS told Reuters "there is no substance to the stories" linking Ratcliffe to a purchase of the Premier League side.
Ineos already own French Ligue 1 side Nice, while they also sponsor the Ineos Grenadiers cycling team and own a third of F1 team Mercedes.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said Abramovich had come to the "right conclusion" to sell the club, while Chelsea Supporters Trust issued a statement demanding any new owner has the club's interests as their "primary focus", and warned against using the club as an "investment opportunity". Amnesty International has also called on the the sale to act as a catalyst to reform the Premier League's owners' test.
Masters said: "The situation has escalated incredibly quickly over the last seven days and he's come to the right conclusion. It's unsustainable in the current environment.
"It's a welcome decision and obviously, for the sake of everybody, including the fans, as soon as the sale process concludes everyone has certainty."
Earlier this week, Labour MP Chris Bryant used Parliamentary Privilege to reveal Abramovich is selling his UK home and another flat, telling the House of Commons the Russian billionaire is "terrified of being sanctioned".
He handed "stewardship and care" of Chelsea to the club foundation's trustees on Saturday, in a move aimed to protect the Stamford Bridge club following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
It is unlikely chairman Bruce Buck, who has run day-to-day operations at Stamford Bridge since 2004, or Marina Granovskaia, who acts as a director of the club, would remain in post beyond any potential sale.
Abramovich is owed £1.5billion by Chelsea after buying the club in a £140m deal in 2003, but says he will not ask for any of the loans to be repaid.
He says the sale of Chelsea "will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process".
"This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and club," Abramovich said.
Abramovich is attempting to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, according to his spokesperson, and says he has instructed his team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale of Chelsea will be donated.
"The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine," said Abramovich.
"This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery."
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.
Thomas Tuchel admitted following Chelsea's FA Cup fifth-round win at Luton on Wednesday that Roman Abramovich's decision to sell the club "hasn't sunk in yet" and it will provoke a "massive change" at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea struggled to overcome their Championship opponents in the wake of Abramovich's statement, eventually defeating Luton 3-2, and when asked to discuss the owner's impact in west London after the game, Tuchel said: "It's a bit too early because it's big news.
"It's a bit too early to speak because I can only think about Chelsea with Roman Abramovich, so it's very hard for me. It hasn't sunk in yet that this is going to stop. It's a massive change, of course.
"I don't think I need to talk about it. I'm very sure the club will speak to us and the players. I'm not so much worried because I still feel privileged and in a good place and I still hope and trust for the best. I'm not so much the person who worries about things I cannot influence.
"It's big news, it will be a big change, but I'm also never afraid of change and will focus on what I can influence - this staff and team at Cobham."
Gary Neville has reacted to Abramovich's announcement that he intends to sell Chelsea after an almost 20-year ownership of the club.
"It's more of a reactive measure than a planned measure because I don't think he would have put the statement out on Saturday night, handing the club to the trustees if he knew he was going to put the club up for sale a few days later.
"We've seen in the news over the last four or five days that wealthy Russians are moving their assets all over the world to more safe havens where they're not going to have their assets seized, and Abramovich is no different.
"He's been an important owner in Premier League history over the last 20 years. I do believe he has enhanced the competitiveness of the Premier League.
"It was a model at the beginning that I found bizarre, coming from a stable club at the time in Manchester United - sacking managers quite regularly who had seen success. But over the last 20 years, he has been a very successful owner of a football club that has created a distinctive model in the way they approach things, particularly with their academy players.
"They're a football club who have been very successful and become admired under his ownership, but eventually those alleged links to Vladimir Putin and the war on Ukraine have brought it to an end.
"I think things have been closing in on him for a few years now and it has come to a head in the last week."
Chelsea Supporters Trust thanked outgoing owner Abramovich in a statement released on Thursday while expressing support for the people of Ukraine over the ongoing war.
The statement laid out the Trust's criteria for any new owner, reading: "With regards to the future - we sincerely hope that any new owner(s) have the long-term prosperity of Chelsea and its supporters as their primary focus. Chelsea has a rich history and a strong winning ethos, any potential takeover should be made to further develop this and not simply as an 'investment opportunity.'
"It is also imperative that any new owner(s) meet and surpass the requirements outlined within the Premier League's Owners' and Directors' Test.
"We sincerely hope that any new ownership will have an open dialogue with supporters and fully consult with supporters organisations when making decisions. Supporters must be put first in all decisions that are made."
Kaveh Solhekol on Sky Sports News:
"The first thing I would say is we have to treat this with an element of caution. Just because Roman Abramovich says he wants to sell Chelsea doesn't mean he is going to be allowed to do so. It's all about what the UK Government decides to do in the coming days and weeks.
"If he's sanctioned, and his assets are frozen, he will not be able to do anything. Having said that, this is still an extraordinary statement. He says he's taken the decision to sell Chelsea, he says that he believes it's in the best interests of the club and the supporters if he sells the club now - he says it's not going to be a firesale, it's not going to be fast-tracked, he's going to follow due process - and remarkably he says he's not going to be asking for his loans to the club to be repaid.
"He's put £1.5bn into Chelsea since he bought the club. He's willing to write that money off; he says it's never been about business and money, the reason he wants to sell is because of his love of the club, and he goes on to say he's instructed his team to set up a charitable foundation and the net proceeds from the sale will go towards the victims of the war in Ukraine.
"Bear in mind he bought Chelsea 19 years ago in a deal worth about £140m, and he's asking for £3bn to sell - so the net proceeds would be just under £2.9bn, and he's saying that money would all go towards all the victims of the war in the Ukraine to provide critical emergency care, support emergency needs and support long-term recovery work.
"Eighteen days ago, Roman Abramovich was on the pitch in Abu Dhabi as Chelsea became world champions. He was holding the trophy - Chelsea had reached the pinnacle of world football.
"Fast forward to now, and he's basically giving the club away. What's changed? Russia have invaded Ukraine, the UK government have indicated they're going to crack down on any Russian oligarchs who have assets in the UK who are associated with the Russian government or president Vladimir Putin.
"Labour MP Chris Bryant has used Parliamentary Privilege to read from a leaked Home Office document which he said stated Abramovich had been involved in corrupt practices.
"He said yesterday in Parliament that Abramovich was terrified of sanctions, and was going to sell his house, apartment and assets in London. Chelsea are his biggest asset - two weeks ago, before the Russian invasion, this would've been unthinkable - but because of what Vladimir Putin has done, he's being forced essentially to sell Chelsea."
Abramovich has slapped a £3bn price tag on Chelsea as he prepares to end his near-two decade ownership of the London club, according to Sky News.
Sky News has learnt Abramovich's advisers at The Raine Group were expected to issue letters to prospective bidders on Wednesday, with a deadline set for indicative bids in mid-March.
Sources close to the process said as many as eight multi-billionaires were being sounded out about their appetite to buy the club at a time when Abramovich faces the possibility of being sanctioned by the UK Government after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian is said to have turned down an offer of £2.5bn for the club from an unidentified third party earlier this week, with bids of £3bn or more expected to be taken seriously.
Several of the parties contacted by Raine are understood to be from the US, with others from Asia.
However, Sky Sports News' chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol does not believe the process to sell Chelsea will be an easy one.
He explained: "For the first time since Abramovich bought Chelsea 19 years ago, he's willing to listen to offers for the club.
"On Saturday, we saw him try to give up control of the club and hand it over to the Chelsea Foundation trustees. That has proven to be much more difficult than he thought it would be and selling the club in the current climate is going to be much more difficult than maybe he imagines it's going to be.
"It's very significant that Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss has come out and said that Abramovich is basically desperate to sell the club. We've also heard from Chris Bryant MP, who used parliamentary privilege to say Abramovich is terrified that he is going to be sanctioned by the UK Government.
"According to Mr Bryant, Abramovich wants to sell his house in London, sell another flat and that was apparently going to happen today. If Abramovich is trying to dispose of all of his UK assets, it's obvious that he would dispose of Chelsea as well.
"The only issue is - who could buy Chelsea at the moment? Who could put a deal together? Because any prospective buyer is going to be thinking 'this is a person, Abramovich, who could be sanctioned by the UK Government at any moment. His assets could be frozen. Is this someone I want to do business with at the moment?'.
"Abramovich himself has always said that he believes he has not done anything that warrants him being sanctioned by the UK Government, but for the first time in 19 years, Abramovich is willing to listen to offers for Chelsea.
"But selling Chelsea at the moment is going to be just as complicated as trying to hand over control to the club to the Chelsea Foundation trustees."