Roman Abramovich has hit out at “entirely false” claims that he has asked for the £1.5billion debt he was owed by Chelsea to be repaid.
The Chelsea owner put the six-time English champions up for sale on March 2 just before being sanctioned by the United Kingdom government due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Oligarch Abramovich, who has denied having close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin, had his assets frozen and has since been sanctioned by the European Union and disqualified as a Chelsea director by the Premier League.
In order to help push through a smooth sale, the 55-year-old revealed in March he would write off the debt owed to him by the club, with proceeds from the sale going to a charitable foundation for “all the victims of the war in Ukraine”.
According to media reports this week, Abramovich had apparently made a U-turn on that decision, raising doubts over whether a takeover would go through before the May 31 deadline, at which point Chelsea’s government licence runs out.
But in a statement attributed to a spokesperson for Abramovich, issued on Chelsea’s website on Thursday, the Russian said his initial stance has not changed – including his asking price for the London side.
“Firstly, Mr Abramovich’s intentions in relation to gifting the proceeds from the Chelsea sale to charity have not changed,” the statement read.
“Since the initial announcement, Mr Abramovich’s team has identified senior representatives from UN bodies and large global charitable organisations 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 organisations.
“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.
“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.”
Statement on behalf of Mr Abramovich.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 5, 2022
A consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly is said to be close to completing the final details of a takeover, despite a last-minute bid by Ineos owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe.
However, a deal cannot go through until the UK government is completely certain Abramovich will not receive any of the proceeds.
“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,” the spokesperson added.
“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.”
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