Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has just given control of his beloved Chelsea football club to charity
In a statement that has shocked the sporting community, British football fans in particular, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has just announced that he has donated his Chelsea FC property to charity.
The move comes as the world reels from Russia’s horrific unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. World leaders and citizens are calling for sweeping sanctions to punish Vladimir Putin and his cronies.
With a net worth of $14 billion (up from $18 billion since January 1), Roman is currently the 10th richest Russian in the world. But he is arguably Putin’s most famous crony thanks to his ownership of Chelsea FC, which he bought for $200 million in 2003. Today, the team is probably worth $2 billion.
Abramovich made his fortune the traditional Russian way: he magically found a way to buy state-owned assets for pennies on the dollar. It then transforms these valuable assets into extremely valuable assets.
For example, in 1995, Roman and a partner paid $100 million for an oil company called Sibneft. Financial analysts at the time believed the company’s true market value to be closer to $3 billion. In 2005, a rival conglomerate called Gazprom acquired 75.7% of Sibneft from Abramovich’s holding company, Millhouse Capital, for $13.1 billion. Today, Gazprom generates $25 billion in revenue a year and has a market capitalization of $50 billion. This market cap was around $100 billion a few months ago.
Roman would be very close to Vladimir Putin. Shortly after Putin became prime minister in 1999, it was Abramovich who reportedly interviewed every potential member of Putin’s cabinet before being officially offered the job.
Because of these ties to Putin, last week a British Member of Parliament named Chris Bryant called on the UK government to seize Abramovich’s local assets, including his Chelsea property.
“Surely Mr. Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country? Surely we should consider seizing some of his assets, including his £152m home?“
Roman Abramovich owns approximately $400 million in personal residences worldwide. The house Bryant is referring to in his quote above is a Kensington mansion that Roman bought in 2009 for $90 million, which is likely worth much more today. Roman also owns a $30 million waterfront penthouse in London and a $25 million country estate. Outside of England, he owns a $100 million mansion on the French Riviera, a $20 million ranch in Aspen, a $70 million estate in St. Barts and FOUR adjoining townhouses on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that are probably worth north of $150 million together.
Outside of real estate, Roman owns a fleet of private planes, including a large private jet he acquired from Hawaiian Airlines and then customized. The plane includes a dining area for 30 people, luxurious bathrooms and advanced missile avoidance systems – the same type used by Air Force One.
His $400 million yacht, Eclipse, was once the largest private yacht in the world. It includes two swimming pools, two helipads and a detachable submarine. This is Eclipse:
In his statement announcing the sale of Chelsea, Roman explained:
“I have always made decisions in the interest of the Club. I remain attached to these values. That is why I today entrust the trustees of the Chelsea Charitable Foundation with the management and care of Chelsea FC. I think they are currently in the best position to defend the interests of the club, the players, the staff and the supporters.“
It should be noted that Roman is still the legal owner of Chelsea. He will no longer be involved in leadership decisions or team operations. The charitable trust will take over the “management” of the team. It’s unclear if that means they might decide to sell the club.
Another important note is that over the years Roman has loaned Chelsea A LOT of money. About $2 billion, in fact.