Billionaire Roman Abramovich says his position over the sale of Chelsea Football Club of England is unchanged and has denied asking for any loan to be repaid to him.
Reports have suggested that the Russian-Israeli, who was sanctioned by the UK Government on March 10 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, could insist on a repayment.
He is being owed 1.5 billion pounds (1.9 billion dollars) by the club. Such a move could jeopardise the entire sale process of the English Premier League (EPL) club.
A consortium spearheaded by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly has been afforded preferred bidder status for the club.
In a statement posted on the Chelsea website, a spokesperson for the club owner said: “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.
“In spite of 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.”
Chelsea’s sale has a deadline of May 31, when the Government’s temporary licence for the Blues expires.
Jim Ratcliffe, Britain’s richest man, tabled a last-ditch bid to buy Chelsea on Friday.
This was just as New York merchant bank Raine Group was preparing to confirm Boehly’s consortium as the preferred bidder.