Sale of Chelsea FC could benefit both Russians and Ukrainians: Roman Abramovich’s new charity will share ‘net proceeds’ from ‘£2BN’ sell-off with victims on either side of conflict
- Ministers face criticism for not sanctioning Mr Abramovich over Ukraine amid claims they ‘dropped the ball’
- The billionaire announced on Wednesday he is looking to sell Chelsea FC. His properties may also be for sale
- Alisher Usmanov, who has £50m Surrey mansion, and Igor Shuvalov, who owns £11.4m UK flat, sanctioned
- But the Chelsea owner has not been sanctioned in the UK or EU and denies that he has any reason to be
Roman Abramovich’s pledge to donate the proceeds of the sale of Chelsea will benefit the soldiers and families of the invading Russians, it was claimed today.
The 55-year-old announced his intention to sell Chelsea on Wednesday after owning the club for 19 years in a statement that failed to denounce Vladimir Putin but suggested that any net gains would go to the Ukrainians.
But according to The Times a source close to the billionaire told them that national boundaries would play no part in deciding who to help, despite Russia being the aggressor in a war that has appalled the world in its brutality.
It came as Mr Abramovich again avoided being sanctioned as Boris Johnson expanded the list to included mining magnate Alisher Usmanov, the former owner of Arsenal, and former Russian deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov.
Both men were hit with travel bans and an immediate freeze on their assets, which include multi-million-pound properties in London and the Home Counties. It is not clear if these mansions and flats will now be seized.
Ukraine war: The latest
- Fire at Europe’s biggest nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia is put out after Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terror’ in shelling the plant Russian troops later take the reactors
- Russia admits ‘limiting’ access to news websites including the BBC, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, independent Russian site Meduza and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, with Facebook blocked
- Russian lawmakers approve legislation providing up to 15 years in jail for any publication of fake news about the Russian armed forces
- Thirty-three people are killed as Russian forces hit residential areas, including schools, in the northern city of Chernihiv
- Russia and Ukraine agree to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from cities
- Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow’s advance is going ‘according to plan’
- Senior US Republican senator Lindsey Graham calls for ‘somebody in Russia’ to assassinate Putin
- Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky calls for direct talks with Putin as the ‘only way to stop the war’
- Russian forces take the Black Sea port of Kherson as it appears Moscow is trying to cut Ukraine’s access to the sea
- US and EU offer temporary protection for Ukrainian refugees so far numbering more than 1million
- Russians pack trains out of the country to Finland, fearful that it is their last chance to escape the impact of swingeing Western sanctions
- Sanctioned Russian oil giant Lukoil calls for a halt to fighting in Ukraine, one of the first major domestic firms to speak out
- Russian tech giant Yandex warns it may default on its debt after it was suspended from trading on New York’s digital stock exchange
- The China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank suspends business with Russia and Belarus in a sign of their deepening pariah status
- Ex-Soviet states Georgia and Moldova – which borders Ukraine’s threatened south – apply to join the EU
- The Beijing Winter Paralympics opens with Russian athletes banned
The Chelsea boss has faced calls to be sanctioned himself, but the Prime Minister has been accused of being scared of doing it. Mr Abramovich is now selling his football club and said to be trying to offload £200million of property in the capital because he is ‘terrified of being sanctioned’, one MP said.
While the official deadline is in a fortnight, he is said to have demanded bids for the West London football team by tomorrow amid claims he has launched a ‘fire sale’ to avoid having his British assets frozen.
The American-Swiss billionaire consortium of Todd Boehly and Hansjorg Wyss are said to be ready to make an offer by Sunday – but there is said to be a wrangle over the price. Abramovich is said to want £3billion to £4billion – while experts believe he’ll be lucky to get £2billion given his situation.
In a statement announcing his decision to sell, Abramovich revealed this week: ‘I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated. The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.
‘This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.’
Abramovich’s pledge was met with scepticism by UK security minister Damian Hinds, who appeared on Good Morning Britain on Thursday morning.
When asked by the ITV show if he understood exactly what Abramovich meant by ‘net proceeds’, Hinds replied: ‘No, because you can define net proceeds in different ways, as any corporate financier would tell you.’
It now appears to be a little clearer as to who could benefit from the money as a key spokesperson has claimed that funds will be given to all victims of the war, regardless of their origin, according to The Guardian.
This has opened up the possibility of money going to Russian citizens and their families.
However, uncertainty remains over the sale of Chelsea, and any subsequent donation that could be made, as it is unclear as to how much Abramovich could realistically sell the club for.
It is understood that Abramovich is aiming to bring in as much as £4billion from the transaction.
However, financial experts have suggested that he may struggle to get more than £2bn for the west London club.
Abramovich did write in his statement on Chelsea’s website: ‘The sale of the Club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process.’
Chelsea have been assured by the Government that they can continue to operate even if Roman Abramovich is sanctioned, as negotiations over a quick sale of the club intensified yesterday.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and LA Dodgers owner Todd Boehly have formed a consortium who are preparing a bid for the club but are not willing to meet Abramovich’s £3billion asking price.
Abramovich rejected a £2.2bn offer from Boehly three years ago but the Russian was not an active seller at the time. He may now have to accept a lower figure due to the lack of alternative bidders and the threat of Government sanctions.
Cash from Roman Abramovich’s war charity using funds from the sale of Chelsea could go to Russian charities and their families – not just Ukrainians, it has emerged. The billionaire is pictured in May at Chelsea’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final match against FC Barcelona in Gothenburg
Alisher Usmanov, 68, (pictured right with Putin at the Kremlin in 2018) and Igor Shuvalov have been sanctioned by Britain – but not Mr Abramovich, who insists he has done nothing to deserve it
Abramovich is worth at least £10.4bn ($12.5bn), according to Forbes, and owns a £150m Kensington mansion, a £22m penthouse, and more than £1.2bn of yachts, private jets, helicopters and supercars based in Britain and around the world
The Russian billionaire Abramovich, 54, reportedly boasts a British property empire that includes a 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington (pictured) that is believed to be now worth £125 million. Mr Abramovich has denied there are any grounds to sanction him
Abramovich’s property empire also includes a £22million three-storey penthouse at the Chelsea Waterfront (pictured)
Despite it being in his team’s colours, it’s doubtful Roman Abramovich will appreciate the sign put up at his London mansion yesterday.
Pranksters installed a fake English Heritage blue plaque on a wall outside the billionaire’s Kensington home.
The sign, pictured, was headed ‘Billionaire Putin crony’. And in reference to the property, a message at the base read: ‘It’s worth £150m but the government won’t seize it’.
Campaign group Led By Donkeys posted a video of the stunt online, with the caption: ‘In France and Germany they’re seizing super-yachts. In London… nothing.’
The Russian Chelsea FC owner announced on Wednesday that he was looking to sell the Premier League club.
The Government has faced criticism for not sanctioning Abramovich over the war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, former England captain John Terry was criticised for posting a photo of himself holding the Premier League trophy alongside Abramovich with the message: ‘Thank you Roman. The best owner in the WORLD.’
Labour MP Chris Bryant urged the ex-Chelsea defender to take down the post, saying: ‘The people of Ukraine are being bombed, shelled and murdered while you celebrate Abramovich.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries accepted yesterday that Abramovich should be sanctioned but that could take weeks because the National Crime Agency are struggling to prove his financial connection to the Russian government.
The UK Government are nevertheless preparing legislation that would allow for the seizure of British property owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs without paying them compensation.
The Premier League have received reassurances that such a move would include the scope for certain properties and businesses to be exempt.
Chelsea are likely to feature on this exemption list as the Government have no desire to punish the club, while some sources are claiming that they are giving Abramovich time to sell before he is sanctioned.
Last night, the Government announced they had frozen the assets of Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek oligarch who was linked with Everton until the club cut ties with him on Wednesday. Everton owner Farhad Moshiri has left the board of USM Holdings, the company where Usmanov was his partner.
Abramovich’s desperation to sell was made evident by his extra-ordinary public statement on Wednesday evening and apparent willingness to write off more than £1.5bn of loans to the club.
The 55-year-old may have to lower his valuation considerably however, as he has not been inundated with offers of interest from potential buyers since he instructed the Raine Group to market the club earlier this week.
Wyss and Boehly are the only publicly known bidders at this stage, with Ineos tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe ruling himself out yesterday despite having previously made a bid, and investment experts told Sportsmail that there are only a handful of individuals in the world able access the billions needed in the time-frame required. A private-equity funded corporate buy-out has been ruled out due to a lack of time, leaving Abramovich’s options limited.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters yesterday welcomed Abramovich’s decision to sell and claimed that should he accept an offer the prospective buyer could theoretically pass the infamous owners and directors’ test in a couple of weeks.
‘I think it’s the right decision,’ Masters said at the Financial Times’ Business of Sport summit. ‘The situation has escalated incredibly quickly over the last seven days and he has come to the right conclusion that it is unsustainable.
‘I think the quickest one (owners and directors test) we have ever done is 10 days. That’s not to say that record cannot be beaten. But, normally, it would take a number of weeks, and it all depends on the complexity of the deal and the number of potential owners. So, provided that the information is easily digestible, easily understandable, gives us all the right answers, it could be done relatively quickly.’
Newcastle United co-owner Amanda Staveley, who bought into her club with an 80 per cent stake from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, questioned why Abramovich was being forced into a sale.
‘I am sad someone will have a club taken away from them because of a link they may have with someone,’ she told the summit. ‘I don’t think that is particularly fair.’
Abramovich is also facing questions about his pledge to donate the net proceeds from the sale to victims of the war in Ukraine after the Charity Commission said yesterday that it had not yet received any registration application for a new charity.
Chelsea sources told Sportsmail that net proceeds would mean everything other than sale costs such as stamp duty and legal fees, which would amount to tens of millions of pounds rather than the £1.5bn outstanding loans, but the club will have no involvement in the running of the charity and ultimately it will be a matter for Abramovich.
Damian Hinds, the security minister, said it was not clear what Abramovich meant by his pledge to donate money from the sale, while others have questioned whether the funds would go to Ukrainians or Russians, which was not addressed in his statement.
‘You can define net proceeds in different ways, as any corporate financier would tell you,’ Hinds said.
The 5,380 sq ft penthouse at Whitehall Court (pictured), officially owned by a company belonging to Shuvalov, emerged in an investigation by Alexei Navalny, a leading opponent of President Vladimir Putin
Usmanov lives in London, where his Russian telecoms giant MegaFon is listed. His main home is Beechwood House, in north London
Chelsea trustees expect the plan to hand over the stewardship of the club to their charitable foundation to be abandoned.
How oligarchs can hide their money using the thousands of shadowy cryptocurrency markets that still allow anonymity
The world’s largest cryptocurrency markets such as such as Coinbase or Binance have agreed to ban anyone sanctioned from using their platforms.
But there are thousands of smaller exchanges globally. Many of them allowing users to be plough cash in without providing proof of identity, allowing them to remain anonymous.
Many of these markets are also less compliant with financial services regulations.
The relatively anonymous nature of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, combined with a decentralised and often confusing structure, makes it impossible to lock people out of trading.
Even online giant Binance has already received a series of warnings from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The watchdog said last year that Binance posed a ‘significant risk’ to consumers, and blasted its unwillingness to engage with regulators.
It ordered the firm to stop any regulated activities in the UK, but was not able to stop British users accessing the main website as this is not connected to the firm’s UK entity.
Trustees, who showed huge reluctance towards it, remain on stand-by if the proposed sale collapses, but the stewardship plan has now been described as being ‘dead in the water’, especially as the Charities Commission would likely prevent the proposals from being actioned.
On Tuesday, Sportsmail revealed trustees would have insisted on an indemnity policy before agreeing to Abramovich’s original plans, given the responsibility of playing such a key role within a business that turned over £434.8million for the previous financial year.
Chelsea had instructed lawyers to start building the legal framework to facilitate Abramovich’s stewardship recommendation — but it is clear now that the idea is largely unworkable.
Meanwhile, financial analyst John Purcell told Sportsmail last night that any sale will likely lead to a drop in transfer spending at Chelsea, which hit £2.1bn in the 19 years of Abramovich’s reign
‘I think the business model will change,’ said Purcell. ‘I don’t think the largesse that Chelsea have displayed since Abramovich took over is going to be repeated.
‘He transformed the Premier League and English football — not necessarily for the better. Everyone else has tried to compete, it’s attracted big money, it’s generated big money, it’s a very rich league. But the losses are getting bigger and bigger.
‘So whatever the purchase price, the new owners will have to fund it on an ongoing basis. Are they going to do it at Abramovich levels? Highly unlikely.’
Ministers have finally cracked down on oligarchs as Uzbekistan-born Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov and ex-Kremlin deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov are the latest targets of sanctions by the British government – as Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich sells off his assets.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has sanctioned Mr Usmanov, who has a £60 million home in Surrey and whose commercial links to Everton football club have been suspended, and Mr Shuvalov.
Mr Shuvalov owns a £11.4million London flat overlooking the Ministry of Defence and he reportedly used a £38million private jet to fly his wife’s corgis to dog shows across Europe, including one in Windsor, but denies there is anything improper or illegal about his business activities.
UK security minister Damian Hinds had earlier questioned what was meant by ‘net proceeds’, and how that will be calculated
Roman Abramovich has a large shareholding in the Russian steelmaking firm whose materials are claimed to be used to make TANKS. Analysts say Chelsea owner transferred his shares eight days before the invasion
Roman Abramovich moved his large shareholding in a Russian steelmaking firm eight days before Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
The Chelsea owner transferred his shares in Evraz, the Russian steelmaking giant, directly to himself from an offshore company on February 16, just over a week before Vladimir Putin ordered the Ukraine invasion.
Analysts have told Sportsmail that the transfer of the 28.64 per cent shareholding, from Virgin Islands-registered Greenleas International Holdings Ltd, could make it less vulnerable to the sanctions which have followed the invasion. It could also make the shareholding easier to sell. The value of the shares have plummeted since Putin’s forces attacked Ukraine.
Grzegorz Kuczynski, director of the Eurasia Program at the Warsaw Institute, told Sportsmail: ‘There was a risk that this offshore company would become a subject of sanctions.’
Mr Kuczynski also said that the steel company’s material was used to make tanks and was a significant part of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
He said: ‘Evraz steel is used to build tanks, amongst other things. The company is important for the Russian arms industry, in this sense. It is important for Russia’s war plans, including with regard to Ukraine.’
But a spokesperson for Abramovich insisted that Evraz steel manufactured in Russia was not used for military. The spokesperson said the Russian produced steel was only used for ‘rail and construction.’
The pair, who are worth a combined £14 billion and have ‘significant interests in the UK and close links to the Kremlin’, are ‘sanctioned with immediate effect’, the Foreign Office said.
They face a full asset freeze and a travel ban, with Ms Truss saying that the sanctions send a ‘clear message that we will hit oligarchs and individuals closely associated with the Putin regime’.
The two Putin associates are also now cut off from their significant UK interests including mansions worth tens of millions and no British citizen or business can deal with them.
The UK has been targeting Russian oligarchs since Moscow’s invasion, with Mr Usmanov and Mr Shuvalov added to the list, there is now 15 Putin associates sanctioned.
After the Foreign Office faced accusations it ‘dropped the ball’ and failed to build legally-sound cases before it made this move, the department will now set up a Oligarch Taskforce of Ministers and officials to further target Russian interests in the UK.
Boris Johnson was today under huge pressure to go faster in targeting Russian oligarchs after it was claimed Britain will not sanction Roman Abramovich and others for ‘weeks or months’ – if at all.
The PM said after the new sanctions, ‘for as long as Putin continues his barbaric attack on innocent Ukrainians we will continue to exert every power we have to inflict maximum economic pain on Putin and his war machine.’
Roman Abramovich has put Chelsea up for sale for £3billion having already lined up a bid led by a Swiss billionaire and is also said to be getting rid of £200million of palatial London property because he is allegedly ‘terrified of being sanctioned’. He is said to have demanded bids for the West London football team by tomorrow amid claims he has launched a ‘fire sale’ to avoid having his British assets frozen.
Yesterday French authorities seized a yacht they linked to Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin – a close ally of the Russian President – in the Mediterranean port of La Ciotat close to Marseille. Oil baron Sechin is Putin’s close friend and de facto deputy – nicknamed Darth Vader due to his fearsome power in Russia having started as Putin’s secretary in 1994. He is already subject to a travel ban and asset freeze by the US.
On Wednesday EU-sanctioned Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, the former owner of Arsenal who lives in a £50m Surrey mansion, had his $600million megayacht Dilbar, described as his most prized possession, seized by the Germans in Hamburg yesterday as EU sanctions bit the oligarchs, Forbes reported. But the port authorities in Hamburg denied this today.
Mr Usmanov, worth £13.4billion, has been sanctioned by Brussels along with Mikhail Fridman, worth £10.4billion, Igor Shuvalov, worth £200million and Andrey Kostin, worth £375million – but despite all these men having UK assets or strong links to Britain, Boris Johnson has followed suit only with Mr Usmanov and Mr Shuvalov.
The U.S. also today put full blocking sanctions on Mr Shuvalov, his five companies, his wife Olga, his son Evgeny and his company and jet, and his daughter Maria and her company and Mr Usmanov along with his superyacht and his private jet, one of Russia’s largest privately-owned aircraft.
It also sanctioned Boris Rotenberg, who has already been sanctioned in the UK, and his wife Karina, and his sons Roman and Boris.
Oleg Deripaska, who is worth £3.2billion and owns 45% of the aluminium company EN+, listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2017, has also faced calls for sanctions due to the industrialist’s close ties to President Putin.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who has been particularly critical of the decision not to sanction Mr Abramovich claiming Boris Johnson is ‘frightened’, said today: ‘I don’t understand why we haven’t seized a single Putin oligarch yacht, palace or serious asset yet. Unlike our European neighbours’. He added: ‘Auction houses, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s, are likely see some very valuable assets being traded by Putin supporters. They should refuse to handle them’.
Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, called for the Government to go further to follow European allies to seize oligarchs’ assets.
‘We should be looking immediately to seize those assets linked to those who are profiting from Putin’s war machine, holding it in trust and returning it to the Russian people as soon as possible,’ he said.
Senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood echoed the call, warning there will be ‘increasing public anger that we’re not doing enough to help our fellow Ukrainians in their hour of need’.
The chairman of the Commons Defence Committee told PA: ‘There’s a race to squeeze Putin given the war crimes he’s now committing in Ukraine and London continues to be seen as ground zero as to where oligarchs’ investments sit. So we need to be impounding these assets in days, not weeks or months. Every day we wait offers more time for the oligarchs to move their wealth to other parts of the world. Don’t forget it’s not their wealth, this is the stolen wealth from the Russian people which is utilised to keep Putin in power.’
From rags to riches… to fleeing Western sanctions: How Roman Abramovich went from a penniless orphan to a billionaire oligarch recommending Putin for president
He is best known in Britain for being the secretive Chelsea FC owner who would while away the hours cheering on his superstars at Stamford Bridge.
But Roman Abramovich, who yesterday sensationally confirmed his beloved football club is up for sale, has a checkered history as Russian oligarch and alleged crony of President Vladimir Putin, who last week launched a brutal invasion on Ukraine that has so far killed thousands.
The billionaire has been embroiled in court battles throughout the last 20 years, including allegations of blackmail (a London court dismissed the case against him in 2012), bribery (he admitted to paying out billions for political favours in 2008) and unproven accusations loan fraud.
Now his name is among those the British government is being urged to sanction.
He has also been questioned over his links to the Russian president, with him last year denying in court he was Putin’s ‘cashier’ in the West – but is still seen as one of his ‘enablers’. He is said to have been the first person to recommend Putin for president to Boris Yeltsin, before Putin assumed office in 2000.
Until recently he had mostly lived his hugely privileged life in peace, either onboard his superyachts, in his mansions or on one of the private jets that make up his £8.4billion empire. He has also found time to create a large family, including seven children – Ilya, Arina, Sofia, Arkadiy, Anna, Aaron and Leah – from two of his three ex-wives.
But he has now found himself in a scramble to sell assets before they are frozen after Putin invaded Ukraine, which swiftly brought calls – so far unheeded – for Abramovich to be sanctioned and have his west London football team stripped from him.
The businessman, 55, had a remarkable rise to make his billions, having been born penniless in Saratov, south west Russia. Both his parents died when he was young, and he was instead raised by his grandparents in Komi, Siberia, from the age of four. Both his grandparents Vasily and Faina, were from Ukraine and fled during the war.
His mother, Irina, died at the age of 28 from fatal blood poisoning shortly after Abramovich was born after she fell pregnant again. His father Arkady threw himself into work, with his young son going to live with his grandparents.
But in May 1969, Arkady was crushed by a crane at a construction site. Both his legs were badly injured, and he died a few days after the accident. Soon after, Abramovich went to live with his uncle, 200 miles from Moscow.
Despite his early loss, the billionaire – who is Jewish and holds Russian, Israeli and Portuguese citizenship – had no complaints about his childhood when speaking about it in the past. ‘In your childhood, you can’t compare things: one eats carrots, one eats candy, both taste good. As a child you cannot tell the difference,’ he once said.
He is best known in Britain for being the secretive Chelsea FC owner who would while away the hours cheering on his superstars at Stamford Bridge. But Roman Abramovich, who yesterday sensationally confirmed his beloved football club is up for sale, has a checkered history as Russian oligarch and alleged crony of President Vladimir Putin (pictured together in 2016)
Left: Roman Abramovich as a Soviet Union Army’s conscript. RightP Abramovich aged 1, with a female friend of a his family
Pictured: A 15-year-old Roman Abramovich is shown (centre) with two female friends in Ukhta, Russia
Roman Abramovich pictured marrying his first wife Olga in Moscow, Russia
Abramovich first starting making money flogging plastic dolls on a market stall after dropping out of two colleges in the late 1980s. According to a biography Roman Abramovich: The Billionaire, he still employs a woman who worked for him back then. He went on to sell rubber ducks from his Moscow apartment.
In 1987 after Abramovich served brief stint in the Soviet army, the parents of his first wife Olga Lysova gave the Russian 2,000 rubles as a wedding present. This allowed him to expand the range of products he sold to deodorants and perfumes.
His first move into making serious money came during the perestroika – meaning openness – reforms as the Soviet Union started to wind down under Mikhail Gorbachev. The changes loosened the regime’s grip on businesses, meaning oligarchs could rise by making their firms legal and buy up state-owned companies.
Abramovich has been accused of using ruthless determination to become one of the richest men in the world before he was 40. He was arrested in 1992, having allegedly used false documents to get 55 tankers of diesel, before the charges were dropped.
He said of the incident in 2011: ‘I have never falsified any documents. None of the people close to me has ever faked a document.’
He added: ‘If backdating documents is something that is not very ethical, then perhaps we could be accused of that. This practice existed in Russia and, for sure, we must have done it. In the course of this case we say that certain documents have been signed two days early, or not.’
His fortune boomed when he linked up with Boris Berezovsky, who run the national car dealer firm Lada, but who was also close with President Boris Yeltsin. It gave the rising businessman key access, which was pivotal to making huge sums in post-Soviet Russia, and he even lived in a flat in the Kremlin.
It is even said that Abramovich was the man who first recommended Vladimir Putin to Yeltsin as his successor as Russia’s president. When Putin first formed his cabinet as Prime Minister in 1999, Abramovich interviewed all the candidates before they were given approval.
Roman Abramovich with one of his first business partners Vladimir Tyurin in Russia. He would go on to become one of Russia’s richest men, and a close ally of Vladimir Putin
Roman Abramovich (first from the left) as a young man with school friends in Moscow, Russia
Roman Abramovich (circled) as a teenager with friends in Ukhta, Russia
Pictured: Roman Abramovich with Chelsea football players John Terry (left), Frank Lampard (second-right) and Eidur Gudjohnsen (right) as they celebrate winning the Premier League in 2005
In the following years, he would remain one of Putin’s closest allies, and in 2007, Putin consulted with Abramovich on who should be his own successor. Dmitry Medvedev – who served as president from 2008 to 2012 before Putin returned to the role – was also personally recommended by Abramovich.
When the USSR’s industry was carved up at the top table, Abramovich was there to make his first few billions – mainly by buying up oil company Sibneft.
Berezovsky and Abramovich purchased the firm for just £100million using the controversial loans-for-shares program – when it was estimated to be worth around £600million.
It was the starting blocks for the tycoon’s huge wealth, with him raking back around £1.8billion from the sale of Sibneft.
The bulk of Abramovich’s UK wealth is to be found in Evraz, a steel and mining giant listed on the London stock market, which he is the largest shareholder.
Aside from business, Abramovich also worked in politics, becoming the governor of the far eastern Chukotka region in 2000 – after winning 92 per-cent of the vote – and pumped £180million into it.
He first came on the radar to ordinary Britons when he bought Chelsea football club in 2003, and put enough money on the table to help them compete.
He transformed the team from outside challengers to a Premier League giant with the help of Jose Mourinho and huge signings such as Didier Drogba.
As well as his huge property portfolio, he also owns a series of superyachts, including the £450million Solaris (pictured), which has a missile detection system
Roman Abramovich’s Yacht ‘Eclipse’is pictured off Portofino in Italy on September 2, 2013
The Russian billionaire, 54, reportedly boasts a British property empire that includes a 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens (pictured) that is believed to be now worth £125 million
An anti-oligarch activist puts a ‘blue plaque’ on the Kensington home of Roman Abramovich in Kensington, London
The billionaire Chelsea owner has faced renewed focus on his business activities in recent days but has always denied any wrongdoing or grounds for him to be sanctioned.
The billionaire is said to have not been seen at his Premier League football club’s south-west London home, Stamford Bridge, for months. Above: The oligarch celebrates with the Club World Cup that was won by his side in Abu Dhabi earlier this month
Mr Abramovich has an estimated wealth of £8.4billion.
As well as his huge property portfolio, he also owns a series of superyachts, including the £450million Solaris, which has a missile detection system.
Mr Abramovich has never held UK citizenship and made his money selling assets purchased from the state when the Soviet Union broke up.
He arrived at Chelsea in 2003 and transformed the team from outside challengers to a Premier League giant with the help of Jose Mourinho.
The bulk of Abramovich’s UK wealth is to be found in Evraz, a steel and mining giant listed on the London stock market.
Despite being highly secretive and preferring a life out of the spotlight, the billionaire has still led a glitzy lifestyle, with superyachts and private planes aplenty.
His two jets, which have two pilots reportedly on £160,000 a year, are personalised inside with a study and supposedly a bedroom with a mirror on the ceiling.
Once asked if the mirror helped improve his sex life, Abramovich replied: ‘No, but it does allow me to shave in bed.’
He also had three Eurocopter helicopters, two of them that were based in England, which meant he could avoid congestion in London. The helicopter pilots were also reportedly paid around £90,000 per year.
The billionaire is said to be less keen on road travel, but still boasted a range of stunning cars including a Ferrari, two Maybach limos, a Porche and a Rolls-Royce.
Meanwhile his property portfolio was also extensive – and expansive. In London, he created a five-storey town house in Belgravia by knocking six flats into one, making the house worth around £150million.
There was a £35million house in St Tropez, south of France, and he also owns homes in Russia, Sardinia, France, the West Indies and the US.
Abramovich lost a number of properties during his 2007 divorce from his second wife Irina, with whom he has five children.
She bagged a £30million home on the Riviera called Chateau de la Croe as well as an estate in Sussex called Fyning Hill, which Abramovich had bought for £18million.
Abramovich lost a number of properties during his 2007 divorce from his second wife Irina, with whom he has five children including Sofia (pictured)
Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich ‘has been effectively BARRED from living in Britain’
Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich is reported to have been effectively barred from living in Britain ever again.
The billionaire has not been seen at his Premier League football club’s south-west London home, Stamford Bridge, for months.
He withdrew his application for a British Tier 1 investor visa in 2018, after reported delays in his application following criticism of Russian oligarchs in the wake of the Salisbury poisonings.
According to The Sun, senior security sources now say it is unlikely that the 55-year-old will ever be allowed to live in Britain again.
Immigration officials are reportedly under instructions to make it impossible for Mr Abramovich – who owns a £125million mansion near Kensington Palace – to base himself in the UK.
His case is said to be being handled by the Home Office’s ‘Special Cases Unit’.
It comes after Mr Abramovich was named by MPs on Tuesday as being one of 35 oligarchs identified by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as one of the ‘key enablers’ of the ‘kleptocracy’ run by the country’s president Vladimir Putin.
He vehemently denies he is close to the Kremlin or has done anything that would merit sanctions being imposed against him – as Britain looked to impose sanctions on Russia amid rising tensions with Ukraine.
She fared better than his first wife, Olga, who he married when he was still a penniless student back in the Soviet Union.
When Abramovich, then 20, spotted Olga, a 23-year-old daughter of a high-ranking government diplomat, across a crowded restaurant in Ukhta in Russia’s Komi Republic in 1987, he was shy.
Afraid Olga would reject him, he sent a friend over to ask the geology student to dance. They later married and went on to share a one-bed flat in a tower block with Olga’s daughter Nastya – from a previous relationship.
But when Olga’s marriage to Abramovich ended in 1989 – amid him working long hours to make his fortune – he gave her only enough money to live on for two years.
He rented another flat for her further out of Moscow, but on the understanding she and her daughter would later move back into the flat on Tsvetnoi Boulevard because Olga wanted Nastya to attend a better school near there.
Abramovich soon shacked up with Irina, a London-based former Aeroflot stewardess who wed the Russian tycoon in 1991 as the USSR crumbled.
The then Ms Malandina met him when the Chelsea owner travelled on an Aeroflot plane when she worked as a flight attendant. Her father had died when she was two, and she grew up in poverty in the Soviet era.
During their marriage he switched from being a powerful but reclusive figure in Russia’s post-Soviet rollercoaster business and political world to becoming a household name in the West as owner of the London football club.
Their life together was compared to living in a ‘gilded cage’ with security guards who formerly worked for Russian and British intelligence.
They parted on good terms in 2007 – with their divorce settlement a closely guarded secret but thought to be £150million – and did not speak ill of each other.
Abramovich married his third wife, the magazine editor Dasha Zhukova, in 2008 but they divorced in 2017 and she is now with billionaire shipping heir Stavros Niarchos.
Dasha had son Aaron Alexander and daughter Leah Lou with her ex-husband and said they were committed to jointly raising their children together.
Court documents filed in New York showed Abrahmovich and Zhukova finalising their divorced in 2017 showed the settlement included over £90million worth of property to Dasha – including a Manhattan mansion. More recently he has been romantically linked to ballerina Diana Vishneva.
Abramovich soon shacked up with Irina (pictured), a London-based former Aeroflot stewardess who wed the Russian tycoon in 1991 as the USSR crumbled
Left: Abramovich has been married three times, most recently to magazine editor Dasha Zhukova between 2008 and 2017, and has seven children. Right: More recently he has been romantically linked to ballerina Diana Vishneva (pictured on stage as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet Kirov Ballet at the Coliseum)
During his marriages Abramovich also had to fight off a number of controversies that threatened to bring him down.
In 2011 the High Court heard he had used well-connected oligarch Boris Berezovsky as his ‘political godfather’ to help him conduct business deals in a country where police were ‘corrupt’ and courts ‘open to manipulation’.
The court heard the Chelsea owner believed it was his ‘moral obligation’ to hand Mr Berezovsky £1.3billion to fund his lavish lifestyle.
He gave his former friend the cash because he felt it was part of the ‘code of honour’ that had replaced the rule of law in Russia after the collapse of communism, it was alleged. But Abramovich won the case in 2012.
The judge said the claimant was ‘an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable, witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes’.
Meanwhile in 2008 he was accused of bribery, with court papers reportedly showing he admitted paying billions for political favours and protection fees for shares of Russia’s oil and aluminium assets.
There was also a claim in Switzerland he had links through a former firm to using a multi-billion pound loan from the IMF as a slush fund.
In 2005, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development said it would suing him for £9million but he said the loan had already been paid back.
More recently, Abramovich has been linked to controversial Israeli settler organisations. A BBC probe found the businessman controlled companies that donated around £74million to Elad in Jerusalem.
In 2011 the High Court heard he had used well-connected oligarch Boris Berezovsky (pictured in 2012) as his ‘political godfather’ to help him conduct business deals in a country where police were ‘corrupt’ and courts ‘open to manipulation’
But today’s debate raging over whether to sanction the tycoon is the most severe pressure he has come under, with him last night handing over Chelsea FC to the trustees of the club’s charitable foundation.
In a statement posted on its website just before 7pm he said: ‘During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC, I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the Club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities.
‘I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart. I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.’
He added: ‘I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff, and fans.’
The trustees of the Chelsea Foundations are Bruce Buck, John Devine, Emma Hayes, Piara Powar, Seb Coe and Hugh Roberston.
His move came after Parliament was told he had been named as a person of interest in 2019 because of alleged links to the Russian state and alleged ‘association with corrupt activity and practices’.
And on Friday night it was claimed any attempts to place sanctions upon him could have been disastrous for the club.
The Times reported if that did happen it could have prompted him to ask Chelsea to pay him back £1.5billion it owes him.
Liverpool University football finance lecturer Kieran Maguire said: ‘If he feels he is being made a scapegoat for the activities of Putin then the worst-case scenario is he tries to call in the loan.
‘Then we’ve got a crisis. He and Putin could argue that it is the British government that has destroyed Chelsea Football Club.
‘There could be a lot of misrepresentation and accusations made from all parties if the British government does go down this route.
‘But I suspect this government will not want to upset football fans as we have a populist government. I suspect Chelsea’s legal team would be going through all the options.’
The billionaire was named in papers leaked to an MP yesterday that linked him to Vladimir Putin’s regime and ‘public association with corrupt activity and practices’.
The release of the Home Office document led to calls for him to be stripped of his right to own a football club in Britain.
Downing Street did not name him among those to be punished in the wake of Putin’s strike against Kyiv, instead naming five senior Russia-based cronies of the regime.
But he has been affected nonetheless, via turmoil created in global markets. Shares in mining firms Evraz and Polymetal International fell by between a quarter and a third.
Abramovich is Evraz’s largest shareholder and its shares tumbled to close 30 per cent down on the day – wiping nearly £300 million off his holding.
He has faced renewed focus on his business activities in recent days but has always denied any wrongdoing or grounds for him to be sanctioned.
Labour MP Chris Bryant used parliamentary privilege to share a leaked Home Office document in the Commons.
Chelsea FC has released a short statement addressing Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. General view of Stamford Bridge
He said the document was from 2019, and questioned why no action had yet been taken against the 55-year-old based on its warnings.
At business questions this morning the Rhondda MP and former minister said: ‘I have got hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office which says in relation to Mr Abramovich – ”As part of HMG’s Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interest to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices.
”An example of this is Abramovich admitting in court proceedings that he paid for political influence.
”Therefore HMG is focused on ensuring that individuals linked to to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal, including immigration powers to prevent this”.
‘That is nearly three years ago and yet remarkably little has been done in relation. Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country?
‘Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets including his £152million home? And making sure that other people who have had Tier 1 Visas like this are not engaged in malign activity?’
The billionaire has not been seen at his Premier League football club’s south-west London home, Stamford Bridge, for months.
He withdrew his application for a British Tier 1 investor visa in 2018, after reported delays in his application following criticism of Russian oligarchs in the wake of the Salisbury poisonings.
Downing Street would not be drawn on the claims about Roman Abramovich made in the Commons. The PM’s official spokesman said: ‘I couldn’t comment on individuals in that way or on leaked documents of that type.’
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