Buyers Circle Roman Abramovich’s Prized Chelsea Football Club

Buyers Circle Abramovich’s Prized Chelsea Football Club

Suitors of Chelsea FC are on high alert over a possible sale of the prized English football club by billionaire Roman Abramovich, people familiar with the matter said.

Sports investors and private equity firms, including some from the U.S., have begun to draw up potential takeover offers for the London team, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. Chelsea has already fielded one enquiry this month, one of the people said. 

It comes as governments around the world respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine with a range of punishing sanctions against Russia, its companies and super-rich. Abramovich is not currently on the U.K.’s sanctions list.

Any potential sale of Chelsea in these circumstances would be unprecedented in English football. Chelsea is valued at about 1.9 billion euros ($2.1 billion), according to KPMG, meaning a takeover could be one of the largest in the European game. By comparison, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund last year bought Newcastle United FC in a deal valuing the U.K. Premier League club at 305 million pounds ($409 million).

It’s not entirely clear how a deal would go through if the U.K. imposes sanctions. Sanctioned individuals wouldn’t be able to sell their U.K. assets, which would be frozen, according to Stacy Keen, a lawyer specializing in sanctions at Pinsent Masons LLP.

Buyers Circle Roman Abramovich’s Prized Chelsea Football Club

A representative for Chelsea declined to comment, while a spokesperson for Abramovich could not be reached for comment.

Abramovich has a net worth of about $13 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, having built his fortune from dividends and sales of privatized assets acquired from the former Soviet Union. British foreign secretary Liz Truss this week refused to rule out adding Abramovich to a refreshed list of sanctioned individuals. 

The 55-year-old is best known in Britain as the owner of Chelsea, which he bought in 2003. Since then he’s invested millions turning it into one of England and Europe’s most successful teams. Last year, Chelsea won the prestigious UEFA Champions League title and this month added the Club World Cup to its trophy cabinet. The club sits third in the U.K. Premier League table.

Buyers Circle Roman Abramovich’s Prized Chelsea Football Club

Chris Bryant, a member of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, told the House of Commons this week that Abramovich shouldn’t be allowed to own an English football club.

American investors would show “significant” interest in Chelsea if it came up for sale, said Jeff Moorad, whose MSP Sports Capital has invested in McLaren Racing. The club is “one of the true global brands,” he said in an email.

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