UK government approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Roman Abramovich

LONDON – Roman Abramovich’s 19 years as Chelsea owner are nearing an end after the British government approved the sale of the Premier League club by the sanctioned Russian oligarch to a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers part owner Todd Boehly.

The government had to ensure that Abramovich, sanctioned for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not benefit from the forced sale of the club, which his investment turned into one of the most successful in European football.

The reigning winners of the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup and European champions will be sold for $3.1 billion – the highest price ever for a sports team – once Premier League approval is granted.

Chelsea have been operating under a government license that expires on May 31 since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March.

“After extensive work, we are now satisfied that all proceeds from the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned person,” the UK government said in a statement released on Wednesday. “We will now start to ensure that the proceeds from the sale go to humanitarian causes in Ukraine to support the victims of the war.

American businessman Todd Boehly attends the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge stadium in London.
Businessman Todd Boehly attends a match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London.

“Today’s steps will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community.”

It’s been a hotly contested sale process following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine three months ago, and Boehly’s group had to guarantee £1.75 billion ($2.2 billion) of investment in the team in order to be selected as new owners.

Chelsea earlier this month agreed to a deal with the consortium, which includes Boehly along with Dodgers’ principal owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and funding from private equity firm Clearlake Capital.

Chelsea fans have grown accustomed to lavish funds in the 19 years under Abramovich’s ownership, with more than $1 billion in net spending on players who have helped the men’s side win 21 trophies.

Abramovich, who has not condemned the war, has said he would write off more than $1.9 billion in Chelsea loans, but that has been complicated by sanctions imposed by the UK government.

Chelsea’s ability to sell match tickets and make spending on new players has been restricted by the sanctions.

The British government ensured that Roman Abramovich would not benefit from the Chelsea sale.
The British government ensured that Roman Abramovich would not benefit from the Chelsea sale.

What is certain is that Chelsea will play in the Champions League next season after finishing third in the Premier League last Sunday despite the turmoil off the field. The women’s team won a league and cup double with a squad funded by Abramovich’s investment.

Chelsea had only won the men’s championship once – in 1955 – when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Assisted by expensive signings, the club won the Premier League two years later and have since added four more, most recently in 2017.

Investment is needed at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have the smallest and most outdated stadium of the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with plans to rebuild the 41,000-seat stadium put on hold by Abramovich in 2018 as diplomatic tensions between Britain and Russia mounted.

The $3.1 billion cost for Chelsea dwarfs the $2.3 billion paid for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in 2018.

In addition to being a part owner of MLB’s Dodgers, Boehly also holds minority interests in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. UK government approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Roman Abramovich


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