Roman Abramovich has denied he wants his £1.5billion loan to Chelsea repaid and has committed to giving proceeds from the sale of the club to charity.
The club was put up for sale by Abramovich in March just before he was sanctioned by the UK Government for his links to Russian president Vladimir Putin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich said he would not be asking for his loans to Chelsea to be repaid and that proceeds from the sale of the club would go to a charitable foundation for “all the victims of the war in Ukraine”.
After reports the oligarch was looking to recover the money he loaned the club, the 55-year-old has reiterated his commitment to giving money from the sale to charitable organisations.
In a statement released by Abramovich and Chelsea on Thursday evening, a spokesperson for the Russian said: “Firstly, Mr Abramovich’s intentions in relation to gifting the proceeds from the Chelsea sale to charity have not changed.
“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. 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.
“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 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.”
The consortium led by US businessman Todd Boehly is the preferred bidder to buy Chelsea, but the UK government will not allow the sale to go through unless it is completely certain Abramovich will not receive any of the proceeds.
The sale is being conducted by the Raine Group, an investment bank appointed by Abramovich, and he will have the final say on who buys the club.
Chelsea’s government license to operate runs out on May 31 and they are facing the prospect of going out of business unless the club is sold or the license is extended.
The Premier League is meeting on June 8 to constitute the new season, by which time Chelsea would need to have a license to be part of the next campaign.
The spokesperson added in the statement: “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. That 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.”
Analysis: Chelsea fans can be relieved
Sky Sports News’ chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“Roman Abramovich doesn’t speak on the record very often and when he does – it’s normally significant. This is a significant statement from his spokesperson.
“During the sale process over the last couple of weeks, there have been suggestions that he does indeed want that money back because of tax complications and the fact he’s sanctioned.
“It’s a really complicated situation but he has tried to set the record straight this evening. And he’s basically said in this statement: nothing has changed. He doesn’t want his money back, he’s sticking to his original position that the money is gone after the club has been sold.
“He’s spoken about what is going to happen to the money. He said previously it’s going to go to the victims of the war in Ukraine. In this statement, he said his team have been working hard to set up a foundation and people from the UN are involved and they’ve held talks with the UK Government as well with what has been going on.
“The message he’s just trying to get out is: don’t believe everything you’re hearing or reading. I don’t think we can discount what we and other people have been reporting. The information we have comes from people who are very close to the sale process.Our information is still true.I’m not accusing Mr Abramovich of not telling the truth.This is how he sees it but it’s a complicated process, different people are saying different things.
“I think it will settle some nerves as far as Chelsea fans are concerned. He’s also addressing another key point. A lot of reports suggested that the goalposts have changed – that Abramovich had asked for an extra £500m to be put on the table. Mr Abramovich’s spokesperson says he is not asking for extra money, but he does go on to say that he wants to make sure that the people buying the club commit funds to develop the club going forwards – to invest in the men’s team, the women’s team , the stadium as well.
“Again, I don’t think what we and the other people were reporting was wrong. It’s just different interpretations. Mr Abramovich is saying the reason behind that [extra money being asked for] is because he wanted to make sure that the future for Chelsea was secure and the people buying the club had enough money to take care of the club.”