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Chelsea for Sale: Here’s What You Need to Know

Roman Abramovich is pulling out of the Premier League. Let’s examine the key details in play as one of the most valuable teams in world football hits the open market.

It’s not every day that one of the planet’s most visible, valuable, and altogether successful sporting organizations goes up for sale. But these are extraordinary times, and Roman Abramovich has officially placed five-time Premier League champions Chelsea FC on the market.

Due to his status as one of Russia’s most famous and/or infamous moguls, Abramovich’s close association with President Vladimir Putin has drawn increasing backlash since the country began its invasion of Ukraine in February. That all came to a head this week, and after first pledging that he’d cede stewardship of the club to its non-profit foundation, Abramovich has now announced that he’s selling Chelsea with the help of US-based merchant bank The Raine Group.

After five league titles, five FA Cups, two UEFA Champions League crowns, anda Club World Cup, a new era is coming not just for London’s Blues, but for English soccer. Let’s discuss the key details.

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Why is Abramovich Selling Chelsea?

As one of the world’s most visible members of the class of Russian businessmen the global community has opted to refer to vaguely (and often ominously) as “oligarchs,” Abramovich’s connections to Putin, while far from completely transparent, are direct and undeniable. In light of the Ukraine invasion, a wave of sanctions and divestment has made Abramovich’s ongoing role as Chelsea’s controlling stakeholder untenable.

As an official Abramovich statement released by the club Wednesday reads:

“I would like to address the speculation in media over the past few days in relation to my ownership of Chelsea FC. As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners.”

He added that all net proceeds from the club’s sale will be donated to a new charitable foundation established to “benefit all victims of the war in Ukraine.”

Who is Roman Abramovich?

Abramovich was born in 1966 in the Soviet port city of Saratov.

He founded investments holding company Millhouse Capital in 2001, whose major assets over the years have included Russian state-owned oil company Gazprom Neft, Moscow-based airline Aeroflot, commercial vehicle manufacturer GAZ Group, and Russian Aluminum. He currently owns a 30.5% stake in London-based EVRAZ plc, a manufacturing and mining company.

He purchased Chelsea in 2003 from British businessman Ken Bates, who had famously bought the club for  £1 in 1982.

Abramovich’s net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $12.5 billion as of this writing.

He is a citizen of Russia, Portugal, and Israel.

How Much is Chelsea FC Worth?

Nineteen years ago, Abramovich paid $233 million for the club.

Forbes’ 2021 Premier League valuations list estimated Chelsea to be worth $3.2 billion. Sportico‘s own list the same year placed the club at $3.3 billion. In each case, the Blues ranked No. 4 in the Premier League behind Manchester United, Liverpool, and Manchester City.

Who Are the Potential Bidders to Buy Chelsea?

The potential buyer you’ll see popping up in media reports most frequently as of this writing is Swedish billionaire Hansjorg Wyss. He confirmed a report that first appeared via Telegraph Sport that he was contacted by Raine on behalf of the club and given the go-ahead to place a bid.

Another name that’s surfaced, generally in tandem with Wyss, is Todd Boehly, the interim CEO of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Co-founder, CEO, and Chairman of holding company Eldridge Industries, and a minority owner of the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, and NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.

Boehly has previously submitted unsuccessful offers to purchase not just London club Tottenham Hotspur, but Chelsea itself. Abramovich rejected the overture.

UPDATE 3/5: Sky News’ Mark Kleinman reports that the Ricketts family that owns the MLB’s Chicago Cubs is considering a Chelsea bid.

UPDATE 3/7: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that New York Jets owner Woody Johnson has interest in being a potential bidder. Sportico’s Scott Soshnick and Brenan Coffey report similar interest from Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé.

UPDATE 3/8: FT’s Sara Germano and Kaye Wiggins report that Philadelphia 76ers owners Josh Harris is “exploring” the opportunity as well.

Elsewhere, admittedly less serious rumblings arose. He may have been Forbes’ highest-earning athlete of 2021, but Conor McGregor does not have $4 billion. Nevertheless, it’s known that the Irish bruiser has long been interested in buying into a football club, and he sure sounds all-in on throwing his hat in the ring for the Stamford Bridge boys.

How Much Will Chelsea Sell for?

Differing reports this week have suggested a price tag of either£3 billion ($4.01 billion) or£4 billion ($5.35 billion). Either figure would constitute the most expensive sports team sale in history, far exceeding the $2.35 billion Joe Tsai’s ownership group paid for the Brooklyn Nets.

Notably, Abramovich has written off the £1.5 billion ($2.5 billion) in loans he had previously made to the club. “I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid,” he said. “This has never been about business for me, but about pure passion for the game and Club.”

The extent to which this development affects the final sale price for the club would be difficult to estimate, but it’s an intriguing detail in the ongoing saga.

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