By Akinwande Soji-Ojo
Chelsea Football Club have released a statement denying that Roman Abramovich has reneged on his promise to write off the £1.6 billion loan he gave to the club.
The sale of the West London club is now in the final stages, with a consortium led by Todd Boehly picked as the preferred buyer by US merchant bank, Raine Group, who have been overseeing the sale process.
However, earlier this week a report in The Times claimed a fresh stumbling block had emerged after Abramovich requested that the club’s debt of £1.6 billiion was paid off to Jersey-based company, Camberley International Investments, which appears to have links to the oligarch.
But a statement by Abramovich’s spokesperson, published on Chelsea’s website on Thursday, has categorically denied the report, insisting that Abramovich has not asked for any loan repayment and is committed to finding a “good custodian” for the club.
“Following speculation in media in relation to the sale of Chelsea FC, we would like to clarify the following points. Firstly, Mr Abramovich’s intentions in relation to gifting the proceeds from the Chelsea sale to charity have not changed.
“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 to 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.
“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.
“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,” the statement read.
The statement also plays down suggestions Abramovich upped his asking price at the eleventh hour, making it clear that the Russian was looking for a financial commitment from the next owners to pour funds into all areas of the club, on and off the pitch.
Due to the sanctions imposed by the UK government, Abramovich cannot profit in any way from the sale of Chelsea and ministers had been under the impression any proceeds would be given over to the government, who would then use them to help victims of the war in Ukraine.