LONDON: Chelsea FC’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly trying to sell the London-based football club for more than £2billion, a deal which would smash the world record for a football club takeover.
According to reports in the UK press, the Russian billionaire is considering giving up his 15-year ownership of the club following a number of reported offers from wealthy suitors as he suffered visa setbacks over his nation’s diplomatic row with Britain following the Salisbury poisonings.
Chelsea’s directors have brought in Joe Ravitch from the Raine Group, according to the Sunday Times. The same specialist US investment bank helped Manchester City’s Abu Dhabi ownership sell a 13 per cent stake to Chinese investors in 2015.
Abramovich has already rejected a £2bn bid for his club earlier this year from Britain’s richest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the boss of petrochemicals giant Ineos.
Chelsea sources meanwhile have denied that the club is for sale and said nothing had changed since reports of the offer from Sir Jim. The Raine Group are yet to comment, while a spokesman for Abramovich in Moscow told he would not talk about “market speculation.”
One source close to Abramovich said that he has no plans to sell the club. The Daily Telegraph understands the Russian is more likely to have expressed interest in attracting a new minority shareholder to release funds.
The report claims Raine Group were hired after Silver Lake, a US private equity firm that owns shares in Tesla and Alibaba, made an unsuccessful approach for a minority stake.
Silver Lake later declined to comment.
A multi-billion pound sale could triple the previous record takeover, set by the Glazer family’s 2005 purchase of Manchester United for £790m.
Raine Group, the specialist bank, might seek interest from investors in China, the US and Middle East. It was claimed last week that Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group (FSG), rejected a £2bn takeover from an Abu Dhabi Sheikh in January.
Speculation over Abramovich’s plans for the club has rumbled on for months. Chelsea’s transfer spending, compared with their Premier League rivals, has slowed down significantly, despite the £71.6m deal for Kepa Arrizabalaga, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. Meanwhile, ambitious plans to redevelop the club’s home at Stamford Bridge were put on hold in May.
Tensions between Britain and Russia grew this year after London accused Moscow of poisoning former double-agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in March. Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning but wealthy Russians have been affected by the frosty relations between the two countries.
Abramovich ran into problems renewing his British visa earlier this year, which caused him to miss Chelsea’s FA Cup final victory over Manchester United in May.
Since buying Chelsea in 2003, the club have enjoyed the most success in their history, with five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the 2012 Champions League among their trophy wins.
Abramovich, who is worth £9.3bn according to The Sunday Times Rich List, earned his wealth from oil, aluminium and consumer goods, reached a £150m divorce settlement in 2007 with his second wife Irina, in what was then the fourth-largest divorce bill in history.