Roman Abramovich has dismissed suggestions he is seeking any financial return from selling Chelsea.
A spokesman for the Russian oligarch issued a statement through the club’s website on Thursday denying claims that he explored the possibility of seeking repayment on the £1.6 billion ($2bn) loan owed to him by the Blues as part of any deal with a new owner.
– Sources: Chelsea in race to finalise new owners
– Olley: How sanctions, confusion are affecting Chelsea’s squad planning for next season
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access
Abramovich, who is not allowed to receive any proceeds from a personal asset after being sanctioned by the U.K government for alleged ties to Russia President Vladimir Putin, released a statement on March 2 insisting that money from the sale would go to an as-then undefined charity to support victims of the war in Ukraine — and he reiterated that position in his first public declaration since.
“Firstly, Mr Abramovich’s intentions in relation to gifting the proceeds from the Chelsea sale to charity have not changed,” said a spokesperson for Abramovich.
“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.”
Abramovich is thought to have asked for an extra £500m ($616m) from the three remaining bidders to reach his £3bn ($3.7bn) valuation.
Sources also suggest Abramovich took advice on whether the £1.6bn owed could be paid to a company, named in reports as Camberley International Investments, whose ownership is unclear, rather than back to him personally.
However, the statement continued: “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.
“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.”
It remains to be seen if the Department of Culture, Media and Sport are satisfied that there is a sufficient degree of separation between Abramovich and the funds to allow a sale to be completed on these terms.
A consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly remains the frontrunner to succeed Abramovich, having entered a period of exclusivity to complete the deal after being identified as the preferred bidder.
British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe tabled an 11th-hour offer of his own but that bid has been dismissed by Raine Group, the New York-based merchant bank appointed by Chelsea to handle the sale. Ratcliffe remains hopeful he could capitalise on any failure of the Boehly-led bid to secure an agreement.