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Roman Abramovich Said to Approach Buyer for Chelsea Football Club

4 minute read

Roman Abramovich is selling his London properties, according to British MP Chris Bryant, and a Swiss billionaire said he’s been approached about buying Chelsea Football Club.

“He’s terrified of being sanctioned, which is why he’s already going to sell his home tomorrow and sell another flat as well,” Bryant, a member of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, said in Parliament in London.

Hansjoerg Wyss, the Swiss businessman, said he received an offer to buy Chelsea on Tuesday, along with three other potential buyers. Abramovich’s advisers at the Raine Group are seeking bids of at least £3 billion ($4 billion) for the club, Sky News reported, without saying where it got the information.

Wyss told Swiss newspaper Blick that he’s waiting a few days and that Abramovich is currently asking for too much.

“He’s in panic just like all other oligarchs,” Wyss said in the interview.

While the U.K. has sanctioned more than 100 Russian individuals and entities in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich, 55, has so far remained off the list. But the Russian billionaire has been under increasing pressure from the nation’s politicians.

On Saturday, Abramovich handed direct control of Chelsea to the trustees of its charitable foundation. However, the move is still waiting consent from the Charity Commission and the trustees.

Bryant has said Abramovich shouldn’t be allowed to own an English football club.

A representative for Abramovich didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, a spokesperson said he was trying to help broker an end to the war in Ukraine.

Abramovich amassed his wealth from dividends and sales of privatized assets acquired from the former Soviet Union, including Sibneft and Aeroflot. He’s now worth about $13.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He bought Chelsea in 2003 and has pumped enough money into the team to turn them into serial winners, with the club winning last year’s UEFA Champions League title.

He decided to put plans to redevelop its stadium on hold in 2018 after running into problems renewing his U.K. visa amid escalating tensions with Russia. That year he obtained Israeli citizenship.

Abramovich is understood to own multiple homes in London. The property Bryant was referring to is a mansion at Kensington Palace Gardens, according to a person familiar with the matter, and the flat referenced is a penthouse at Chelsea Waterfront.

U.K. real estate brokers surveyed by Bloomberg said it might be difficult for the properties to be sold quickly.

Still, Russia’s warmongering has cast the opulent assets held by some of its billionaires—everything from high-end property to private jets and superyachts—into the spotlight as the U.S., EU and U.K. ramp up sanctions. Lawmakers like Bryant are pressing to widen their scope and have talked of asset seizures.

Suitors of Chelsea are on high alert over a possible sale of the prized English soccer club, people familiar with the matter have said, but previous reports that Chelsea was on the block didn’t result in a sale. Sky reported on Wednesday that an offer of £2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) was turned down this week.

Wyss, for one, said that he could only imagine buying the football club as part of a group.

“I‘m definitely not doing something like this alone,” he said. “If I buy Chelsea, then it’s with a consortium consisting of six to seven investors.”

—With assistance from Tom Metcalf, Cecile Vannucci and Corinne Gretler.

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