Inside story on Roman Abramovich’s takeover of Chelsea after secret talks and snub from Man Utd

From a virtual stranger to the man heralded as the reason for the club’s success, Roman Abramovich prepares for an emotional farewell Chelsea after 19 years as a club owner.

The Russian billionaire confirmed on Wednesday that he has put the club up for saleamid threats of sanctions being handed down to Russia ‘s oligarchs in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Abramovich’s ties to the President Wladimir Putin have put Chelsea under the microscope and with the pressure mounting on the 55-year-old, he is in talks with potential buyers over the £3billion sale of the club.

Multiple parties are believed to be interested in taking control of the west London club. including Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and American business mogul Todd Boehlywhile Ineos boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe has distanced himself from the discussion.

Chelsea’s billionaire Roman Abramovich is selling the club

Abramovich’s departure has materialized within a week, as has his bid to buy the club, and it seems likely the Blues will have a new owner before the end of the season.

It’s been quite a journey for Chelsea, having had 13 managers throughout his tenure at the club – including the ill-fated return of Jose Mourinho – and four First League title as well as two Champions League triumphs.

As he prepares to sign his property, mirror football brings you the inside story of how Abramovich took control of Chelsea – and how he made the decision to take over the west London club…

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How the deal came about

Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea in 2003 for £140m

When the Russian bought the club for £140million in July 2003, it came almost from nowhere. Not only because Abramovich was an obscure figure outside of Russia at the time, but also because of the speed of the takeover.

Talks were kept under wraps to the point that people at the club were surprised when the agreement was announced. Similarly, these secret negotiations between Abramovich and Bates caught the British press off guard, with several newspapers calling the deal a “surprise.”

Abramovich gained control after buying Chelsea Village for £60million from Ken Bates, the former owner of Chelsea plc. That secured 50.9 percent of the shares as Russia’s Supremo bid 35 pence a share to buy the remaining lot.

The club was at this point in debt of over £80m and in need of new investment, with the club making a loss of £11m on its £53m turnover for the six months to December 2002.

But after qualifying for the Champions League on the last day of the 2002/03 season and having a loyal following at Stamford Bridge, Abramovich correctly predicted his potential – as did Bates.

“I think it’s a great move for the club,” said Bates, who bought Chelsea for £1 in 1982. “In the long term, this deal will be great for Chelsea.

“What does this mean for Chelsea? Well, we are recognized as one of England’s elite clubs and this additional financial strength will help position us as one of Europe’s elite clubs.”

Abramovich paid off debts that had increased due to the cost of building a hotel, restaurant and leisure facilities at Stamford Bridge and began drawing up plans for what the club would look like under his ownership.

A virtual stranger

Roman Abramovich meets fans for the first time as a Chelsea owner

For the football world, Abramovich’s identity has been a mystery. The only information available about the 36-year-old tycoon was that he made his fortune from his businesses in Russia.

His oil company, Sibneft, was one of the largest in the country, while he also held interests in a number of aluminum companies and the airline Aeroflot.

With a personal fortune of £3.4 billion, Abramovich was the second richest man in Russia and in the top 20 in the world at the time. However, it is believed that selling his stake in Aeroflot was key to funding his deal for Chelsea.

Former Chelsea director Mark Taylor admitted they had no clear idea who they were dealing with when Abramovich’s reps announced they wanted to discuss a deal.

“Chelsea has been looking for investors for about 18 months and we’ve had a lot of time wasters and Roman seemed viable,” he told The Athletic’s Straight Outta Cobham podcast.

“Nobody really knew who he was – so on Friday morning his lawyers brought Forbes magazine in from America and I think he was number 15 on the list at X billion dollars which seemed like a pretty good place to start.” “

Still, there was resistance to the rapid pace at which the deal had been carried out. Ex-Sports Secretary Tony Banks MP, who may have been ahead of the curve and required an assessment of potential football owners before selling to them, was skeptical of Abramovich’s suitability.

“I want to know if that person is fit and suitable to take over a club like Chelsea. By the time that question is answered, I’m afraid the jury will be decided,” he said BBC.

“A sale has been arranged to an individual we do not know about.”

Man Utd secret talks and snub

Chairman Ken Bates and owner Roman Abramovich watch Chelsea play Liverpool

It recently emerged that while Abramovich was always interested in owning an English football club, Chelsea wasn’t his first choice.

Back then, Manchester United were Premier League champions and the dominant team in English football arsenal their closest rivals. As the club was listed on the London Stock Exchange, Abramovich possessed the assets to purchase the club’s majority stake.

It is even claimed that he went to a Man United game real Madrid in the Champions League at Old Trafford, as well as considering buying Portsmouth.

“It’s on a smaller scale, but interestingly Abramovich considered buying Portsmouth before he bought Chelsea,” said James Montague, author of The Billionaires Club The day star.

“He was shopping – Portsmouth, even Manchester United was mentioned. Pini Zahavi was involved in finding a suitable club. It turned out that Chelsea were in the greatest financial difficulties and were the most available to be bought at such short notice.”

After deciding to find a club in London to set up shop in the UK, Abramovich was faced with a choice Tottenham and Chelsea and held talks with Chairman Daniel Levy to buy a majority stake.

But as fate would have it, Sven-Göran Eriksson – the former England manager and close confidant of Abramovich – claims to have influenced his decision to join West London via the North Side.

“In 2003 Roman wanted to buy a club in Russia. I went to Moscow with him to see the facilities of two or three other clubs. But then he changed his mind and said he wanted to buy a club in London,” Eriksson said.

“He was thinking about Chelsea or Tottenham. He called me and said, “Who should I buy?”

“I said if you want to win the league then Chelsea – because you only have to change half the team. At that time you might have had to change the whole team at Tottenham.”

Only Abramovich knows how much he valued Eriksson’s opinions. But given Chelsea have won 15 trophies since Spurs last added silverware to their cupboard, the Swede could be owed a big drink for his wisdom in a pub somewhere on the King’s Road.

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