If Roman Abramovich now wants his £1.6bn loan paid back to agree the sale of the Chelsea, then the club is facing its biggest crisis since the 1987 ‘Save the Bridge’ campaign, when Stamford Bridge was under threat of being turned into luxury flats by property developers Marler Estates.
Abramovich initially claimed he would write off the £1.6bn he had put into the club to ease the sale process. But now it is said he fears that may not be possible because of UK Government sanctions. Which is an interesting take, because the UK Government can amend the terms of the sanctions as and when it chooses, what with them writing the law on this.
So it’s clearly perfectly possible to allow Abramovich to write off the loan and designate a Government ESCROW account into which the money for the sale of the club can be paid. Could it be that a better explanation is that Abramovich doesn’t actually now want to write off the loan?
Roman Abramovich wanting his £1.6bn loan back may give Chelsea its biggest crisis for years
Put it this way: UK government sanctions make it clear that Abramovich is effectively President Putin’s man. If you believe that, then, in essence, Chelsea is a Russian state asset. Is Vladimir Putin, currently talking up the threat of nuclear war, really going to allow £2.5billion of Russian assets vanish into the hands of the UK Government to distribute as they see fit, with much of it ending up supporting Ukraine?
There was always a fear among those close to the sale process that Abramovich could scupper a deal at the last minute. And these new conditions, which only emerged last week, look very much like a huge spanner in the works.
The deal suggested is that the loan, which is owed to a holding company called Fordstam (controlled by Abramovich), should now be paid to Camberley International Investments, which appears to be linked to Abramovich. That just isn’t going to happen if the UK Government is good to its word. They have pledged that not a single pound from the sale process can end up in Abramovich’s pocket.
And so we have a stand off and, just to add some tension, the clock is ticking. Chelsea are only operating as club because the UK Government carved them out of sanctions until May 31st so that they could finish the season. Without Government permission, they cannot function: they can’t sell tickets, pay players or recruit players. They can’t even stage matches. They would essentially be liquidated and unable to play at any level, until some kind of deal can be sorted.
Abramovich fears the loan cannot be written off due to the UK Government’s sanctions, but Boris Johnson and Co can change them as they see fit
Chelsea will not be able to re-enter the Premier League if they are not licenced by June 8
Abramovich’s late u-turn has thrown a spanner in the works for rumoured suitor Todd Boehly
And claims Bruce Buck and Marina Granovskaia will stay on has been described as ‘unsettling’
RATCLIFFE: OUR BID WAS REJECTED
Britain’s richest man, Jim Ratcliffe, has seen his £4.25bn offer to buy Chelsea rejected – but is not giving up on the bid.
Tom Crotty, a director at Ratcliffe-owned chemicals producer Ineos Group Ltd, told Bloomberg: ‘We’ve been rejected out of hand by Raine, but we will keep reminding people we are still here.’
Ratcliffe’s ‘fan-based’ bid are talking to supporter groups and still hope Roman Abramovich may sell to them despite the rejection of Raine, the bank running the sale of the club.
Maybe the Government will just extend the special licence? They could, but on June 8th the Premier League has its AGM and will constitute the league for 2022-23. If Chelsea aren’t licensed by then, they can’t take up their place in next season’s Premier League, nor can they be nominated by the FA as a Champions League or Europa League representative. And they can only be licensed with Government permission, which will only happen if they are sold.
Add into the mix the fact that the Financial Times is reporting that current chairman Bruce Buck and managing director Marina Granovskaia will continue at the club if the Todd Boehly takes over. Julian Knight, Conservative MP and chairman of the DCMS Select Committee, which is the department overseeing the sale, says that would be an ‘unsettling development.’
And that the bizarre, last-minute Jim Ratcliffe bid, which has received lots of fanfare but which isn’t technically part of the process, seemed peculiarly designed to appease Abramovich.
When Abramovich initially said he would sell Chelsea, before he was sanctioned, he said he wanted to set up foundation ‘for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.’ Victims of war was of course a suitably vague phrase which could conceivably mean rebuilding the Russian-controlled Donbas region in Ukraine.
The Ratcliffe bid mimicked Abramovich’s language, saying that it wanted proceeds to go to a ‘Charitable Trust to support victims of the war’ But as both Ratcliffe and Abramovich know, they don’t get to choose where the money goes so it’s meaningless to pledge what is going to happen to it.
If this becomes a blinking contest between Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Johnson the Blues could be in jeopardy
Unless Abramovich is plotting to pressure the Government to let him set up some kind of charitable organisation? That way he could spend the rest of his life demonstrating he is was in fact a generous humanitarian rather than a Putin crony, who gained his wealth in what his own lawyer described as an ‘easy-to-rig auction.’
In essence, it doesn’t really matter who buys the club. If they can’t get the deal done because Abramovich and the UK Government are in deadlock, then Chelsea are in jeopardy.
Of course, with three and half weeks to go, the expectation is that someone will back down. But if this becomes, by proxy, a blinking contest between Putin and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, then it’s very hard to see either of them nuancing positions.
‘If we’re not careful, it’s going to impact the players and the coaches… I hope we get a swift solution’: Chelsea bidder Seb Coe warns the club must sort a takeover quickly, with Blues at risk of not being able to compete in next season’s Premier League
By Oli Gamp
Lord Sebastian Coe – one of the bidders to buy Chelsea – has urged the club to thrash out their takeover as quickly as possible after their sale hit a snag this week – leaving fears over their ability to compete in the Premier League next season.
Chelsea’s turbulent few months dished up a new chapter on Tuesday when it was reported owner Roman Abramovich was backtracking on his promise to write off the club’s debts of £1.6billion.
Last week the club informed Whitehall – and the three remaining interested parties – that they wanted to restructure the way the Premier League club is being sold, leading to concerns from the government that Abramovich could benefit from the sale of the Blues.
Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government earlier this year due to his apparent links to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has led the shocking invasion of Ukraine.
Lord Sebastian Coe – one of the bidders for Chelsea – has urged a quick sale of the club after Roman Abramovich backtracked on his promise to write off Chelsea’s £1.6bn debts
Coe – a lifelong Chelsea fan – believes there is a ‘problem’ in the takeover and said the government must be ‘clear’ in what solution it wants
Any scenario where Abramovich is in line to profit from the takeover would be a breach of the sanctions and cause the sale of the club to be delayed – which would place Chelsea’s future in serious jeopardy.
Lord Coe – who is involved in Sir Martin Broughton’s consortium to buy the club – wants the best for Chelsea as a lifelong fan but fears any further delay to the sale could have grave consequences at Stamford Bridge.
He told LBC: ‘I joined Martin’s bid with one simple proposition – I’m a Chelsea fan of more than 50 years. I was in the ground in 1967, I was born near the ground and still have a house there.
‘For me it was always about the club having the best possible ownership, one that was recognising one very simple fact – that is you don’t really own a club, you’re the stewards of a community sports organisation. At this moment the one thing I hope we end up with is a swift set of solutions to this.
‘As someone who’s been involved in sport, there is a vacuum here if we’re not careful, which is going to impact on the players – it’s certainly going to impact on the coaching. To be sitting in a stadium where you’re regularly 10,000 fans down because you can’t sell seats – there is a problem here.
Chelsea’s takeover saga hit a snag after revelations that the club want to restructure the sale
‘The rest of the decisions have to be made properly, there is a process and this is a one-off. You don’t see clubs being sold in these circumstances so government will have to be really clear what it wants out of this.’
Lord Coe and Broughton had promised to ‘invest in the club to keep it at the top of European football’, vowing an ‘immediate commitment to invest in players, new team facilities, and new commercial opportunities’.
Their consortium is not expected to be selected as the preferred bidder – with LA Dodgers chief Todd Boehly and his American firm the favourite to seal a £3.5bn deal for the club.
A last-gasp £4.25bn bid from Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also set to be taken seriously should Boehly’s offer fall through, but the new uncertainty surrounding the club is leading to question marks over their immediate future.
Coe has warned of a ‘vacuum’ which could impact on Chelsea players and coaching staff
The restructuring of the sale would see Chelsea’s parent company Fordstam Ltd paying off the debt to a Jersey-based company Camberley International Investments, which appears to be linked to Abramovich – leading to red flags from the government, therefore jeopardising the sale.
The current operating licence for Chelsea expires on May 31 and any further delays could have serious consequences on the club’s ability to compete in the Premier League and UEFA competitions next season.
Coe says that his main worries for the club are as a fan and has urged a ‘resolution’ as fast as possible and for the club to ‘land in the right hands’.
‘I go back to being a fan,’ he added. ‘Fans like me want a resolution to this but they want to make sure the club lands in the right hands and that the club isn’t lumbered with debt for the next 50 years.’