Chelsea are at risk of being chucked out of the Premier League after Roman Abramovich demanded he be paid back the £1.6billion the club owes him. Abramovich’s attempts to sell the club appeared to be on track after Todd Boehly was made preferred bidder last week, but the Russian oligarch’s request has thrown a spanner in the works.
Boehly, who is a co-owner of the LA Dodgers and LA Lakers, overcame the competition from two rival bids fronted by former Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton and Boston Celtics owner Stephen Pagliuca. The American billionaire was granted five days to thrash out a deal after his £3.5bn offer was put forward by Raine Group, the US merchant bank overseeing the sale.
However, the possibility of Boehly becoming the new owner of the Blues and providing some certainty to supporters, as well as Thomas Tuchel and his players, has been placed in doubt by Abramovich’s actions. The 55-year-old has been placed under sanctions from the UK Government following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which means he cannot benefit financially from the sale of the club he has owned since 2003.
Yet Abramovich has reportedly said he wants to restructure the way the club is being sold to ensure that the debt from Chelsea’s parent company, Fordstam Ltd, is repaid to another company called Camberley International Investments. The Times reports that although the ownership of the Jersey-based entity is unclear it ‘appears to be linked to Abramovich or family members’ – a suggestion which clearly goes against the government’s sanctions.
During the start of the takeover process, Abramovich had insisted he did not expect the huge amount of money he had effectively loaned Chelsea to be repaid. The government had expected that all proceeds from the sale would be used for good causes, including helping the victims of the war in Ukraine.
If that is not the case then Chelsea are working against a ticking clock, with the current licence they are operating under set to expire on May 31. The Sun reports that if Abramovich does not drop his demand for repayment, the possibility of the club being banned from the Premier League is ‘a real one’.
Abramovich is believed to argue that the sanctions mean he cannot legally write off the debt. That contradicts his initial statement about the sale on March 2. “The sale of the club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process,” he said at the time.
“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.”