Chelsea’s next steps and the question over Roman Abramovich’s ‘net proceeds’ gesture

Roman Abramovich is selling Chelsea 19 years after reshaping English football with unprecedented investment that brought 18 major trophies.

Nineteen days ago the 55-year-old Russian billionaire stood on the pitch in Abu Dhabi as the club was crowned world champions for the first time.

Five days ago he announced an intention to hand the “stewardship and care” of the club to the trustees of the club’s charitable foundation, only for a couple of the trustees to raise a conflict of interest and the Charity Commission to seek more information because it may have been legally impossible.

Now the team is up for sale and a deal is expected to be concluded far more quickly than the usual takeover of a massive sports brand. Ordinarily these moves can take months. It would be a surprise if this lasted more than a couple of weeks.

So what happens next?

A deadline of mid-March has been set for bids to be submitted, signalling the haste with which Abramovich is trying to sever ties with the UK.

There are a number of interested parties but the frontrunners right now are a consortium led by Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and part-owner of the LA Dodgers Todd Boehly.

The latter saw a bid to buy the club rejected several years ago and some due diligence carried out then remains pertinent now. That could speed the process up.

But these deals are almost always done very quietly and do not become public until the last minute. That Wyss went straight to a Swiss newspaper goes against the grain of what is usually seen.

Abramovich’s asking price ranges from £2billion to £4billion depending on the source but the rush to sell weakens his position and that should drive the price down.

Abramovich says he will not seek repayment for the £1.5billion he has loaned the club. But “net proceeds” is a vague term and the asking price remains a lot higher than what he has invested.

It is possible for him to make a profit without reclaiming the loans and still make a donation to charity depending on how “net proceeds” is framed.

If he does not seek any repayment then his donation to a “charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated … for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine” would be among the most generous gestures of all time.

Scepticism is not in short supply.

There remains a threat of Westminster sanctions being imposed, though Boris Johnson’s vague response to Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday would suggest some doubt around that.

Sanctions would put all plans to sell on hold and prospective buyers would then need to deal with the government. Considering the speed with which this story has moved, no one should be shocked if another curve ball is thrown.

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