Uncertainty has been cast over the potential sale of Chelsea amid fears that Roman Abramovich will break his promise to write off a £1.6 billion debt, according to the Times. The report claims that last week, the west London club told the UK Government – as well as bidding groups – that they want to ‘restructure’ the handover process, throwing a blanket of doubt over proceedings.
The reform would reportedly include ‘paying off debt’ from Chelsea’s parent company Fordstam Ltd to a Jersey-based company Camberley International Investments, which seems to be linked to the Russian billionaire. With Abramovich sanctioned by the UK Government and his assets frozen, there are concerns, especially with Ministers under the impression that all proceeds from the sale would be put towards helping the victims of the war in Ukraine.
Consortiums led by Todd Boehly, Stephen Pagliuca and Sir Martin Broughton looked set to be the only options on the table for Chelsea and the Raine Group – the bank advising the club on the takeover – but that no longer seems to be the case. On Friday, Sir Jim Ratcliffe confirmed that he made a late £4billion bid to buy the Blues.
The move came just a day after Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries sent a warning to the Blues to speed up the process, saying that they were on borrowed time. Speaking on the BBC’s Newscast podcast, she said: “Chelsea is very much on borrowed time at the moment. There is a very short window left for that sale to take place. It has to happen soon.”
Given the due diligence, the rest of the candidates have undergone throughout the process, Ratcliffe’s bid could potentially slow the process if the club were to choose the latest offer. However, the INEOS owner’s 11th-hour proposal could be the least of Chelsea’s problems amid worries that Abramovich could pull the plug on a promise which has been central to the takeover process.
The Times added that the 55-year-old claims that his sanctioning withholds him from following through with his promise. When Abramovich put the Blues up for sale, he said: “I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid.”