Roman Abramovich has tonight handed 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.
‘I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the Club, players, staff, and fans.’
Abramovich has been the owner of Chelsea since 2003 and since his arrival has seen a transformation in the fortunes of the club.
The trustees of the Chelsea Foundations are Bruce Buck, John Devine, Emma Hayes, Piara Powar, Seb Coe and Hugh Roberston.
His move tonight 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 last night it was claimed any attempts to place sanctions upon him could have been disastrous for the club.
The Russian billionaire Chelsea owner has faced renewed focus on his activities this week
Abramovich denies any suggestion of his alleged closeness to Vladimir Putin and Russia
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, left, talks with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at Stamford Bridge, in London last year
Liverpool University football finance lecturer Kieran Maguire said he could ask for loan back
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 last night 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.
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.
Labour’s Chris Bryant told the Commons: ‘Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country?’
A fortune mined in steel: The £8.4billion man who handed Chelsea to charity
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.
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.
Mr 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.
This morning Labour MP Chris Bryant used parliamentary privilege to share a leaked Home Office document in the Commons.
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?’
In 2011 the High Court heard that Mr Abramovich had used the 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.
The Chelsea owner 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.
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 Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘I couldn’t comment on individuals in that way or on leaked documents of that type.’