Abramovich issues statement on Chelsea repayment rumors
The Chelsea owner addressed reports that he seeks to recoup $2 billion owed to him by the club
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has released a statement in response to claims that he intends to seek repayment on a loan of £1.6 billion ($2 billion) owed to him by the club.
Abramovich put Chelsea, which he has owned since 2003, up for sale on March 2 and stated that he would 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," Abramovich insisted at the time, and days later he was sanctioned and had his assets frozen by the UK government for alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A sale is still possible if cleared by the British authorities and is being overseen by US merchant bank the Raine Group, but Abramovich cannot profit in any way.
A consortium led by American financier Todd Boehly is believed to be closing in on taking over the club this week, but the process was alleged to have been complicated by claims that Abramovich had done a U-turn and would now look to recover his loan.
In a statement through a spokesperson on Thursday afternoon, however, Abramovich looked to put such speculation to bed.
"Firstly, Mr. Abramovich’s intentions in relation to gifting the proceeds from the Chelsea sale to charity have not changed," it began, with Abramovich previously vowing to hand these to victims of the conflict in Ukraine through a charitable foundation.
"Since the initial announcement, Mr. Abramovich’s team has identified senior representatives from UN bodies and large global charitable organizations who have been tasked with forming a Foundation and setting out a plan for its activities," it continued, revealing that the "lead independent expert has had conversations with Government representatives presenting the structure and initial plans."
"Mr. Abramovich has not been involved in this work and it has been managed independently by experts with years of experience working in humanitarian organizations," the statement added.
"Secondly, Mr. Abramovich has not asked for any loan to be repaid to him – such suggestions are entirely false – as are suggestions that Mr. Abramovich increased the price of the Club last minute.
"As part of Mr. Abramovich’s objective to find a good custodian for Chelsea FC, he has however encouraged each bidder throughout this process to commit to investing in the Club – including in the Academy, Women’s team, necessary redevelopment of the stadium as well as maintaining the work of Chelsea Foundation."
"Following sanctions and other restrictions imposed on Mr. Abramovich by the UK since announcing that the Club would be sold, the loan has also become subject to EU sanctions, requiring additional approvals," the statement said, which means that the funds "will be frozen and subject to a legal procedure governed by authorities."
"These funds are still earmarked for the Foundation. The Government are aware of these restrictions as well as the legal implications.
"To be clear, Mr. Abramovich has no access or control of these funds and will not have any access or control of these funds following the sale. Despite the changing circumstances since his initial announcement – he remains committed to finding a good custodian for Chelsea FC and making sure the proceeds go to good causes," the statement concluded.
As Chelsea take on Wolves on Saturday, the club remains focused on trying to complete a sale before a May 31 deadline, after which it could face problems to continue operating and there have been suggestions that this would lead to expulsion from the Premier League.