UK govt ‘alarmed’ as Abramovich accused of Chelsea sale delay
The Russian billionaire has been accused of holding up the takeover of the London football giants
The UK government is “alarmed” at aspects of the sale of Premier League giants Chelsea which could hinder the transfer of the club from Russian owner Roman Abramovich to a consortium led by US financier Todd Boehly, according to reports.
Terms for the total £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) deal for the club were reportedly agreed earlier this month, with Boehly being pictured visiting Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge home for a recent league match as well as paying a visit to the club’s training ground.
But a deal to end the near-two-decade tenure of Abramovich as owner of the Blues has now hit a roadblock over the exact structure of the agreement, according to The Times.
Government officials must green-light the procedure to ensure Abramovich does not benefit in any way from the sale after he was placed under sanctions for his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Times claims that Abramovich and Chelsea are at odds with government officials over the fate of the £2.6 billion which will be paid for the club and the question of the £1.6 billion in loans which Abramovich is owed by Chelsea, but which he has promised to write off.
The government’s proposal is for a two-stage process through which all the finances will be transferred to a holding account before going to a foundation to help victims of the Ukraine conflict – something Abramovich himself has pledged.
However, the Russian billionaire is said to want the £1.6 billion loan debt from Chelsea’s parent company Fordstam to Jersey-registered Camberley International Investments to be repaid first. It would then be frozen before being transferred to the charitable foundation.
The Times quotes a government source as claiming there is “considerable alarm” over that scheme, suggesting it would break the terms of the sanctions imposed on Abramovich and citing fears it could lead to the Russian ultimately receiving the funds indirectly via Camberley, the ownership of which was described as “murky.”
Chelsea’s concerns about Camberley writing off the loan without technically being repaid are said to center upon potential tax liabilities for parent company Fordstam as a result, which would damage their interests.
“There’s quite serious concern in government that the deal may fall apart and that Roman Abramovich is ultimately willing to let Chelsea go under,” claimed a source quoted by The Times.
“There’s alarm in government about the gap between what Abramovich has said he will do publicly and what he’s willing to commit to legally as part of the sale process.
“There are pressing deadlines this week, and if there isn’t a breakthrough, we’re quite concerned that the sale of Chelsea could be timed out by certain sporting deadlines.”
Chelsea have been granted a special operating license by the UK government which is set to expire on May 31.
The fresh claims come despite Abramovich offering assurances that he remains fully committed to seeing the club sold in the manner most beneficial to its interests, while serving victims of the conflict in Ukraine.
“Mr. Abramovich’s intentions in relation to gifting the proceeds from the Chelsea sale to charity have not changed,” read a statement from Chelsea on behalf of the 55-year-old earlier this month after reports he had changed the terms of the deal.
“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…
“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,” it added.
Of the £4.25 billion deal, around £1.75 billion would be committed to investment in the development of the club, including the men’s and women’s teams and its Stamford Bridge home.
Abramovich bought Chelsea for around £140 million in 2003, subsequently plowing hundreds of millions of pounds into the club to turn it into a domestic and European powerhouse.
Chelsea have enjoyed by far the most successful period in their history under Abramovich’s reign, including winning five Premier League crowns and two Champions League titles.