The £4.25bn takeover of Chelsea football club has been completed after Roman Abramovich agreed to the UK government’s terms for the sale, ending a tumultuous period that raised fears over the club’s existence.
Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, said the UK government issued a licence on Tuesday night that permits the sale of Chelsea.
A new era at Stamford Bridge can officially begin after a bid led by Todd Boehly, a part-owner of baseball’s LA Dodgers, was given permission to go through. The government issued the licence after it said it was “now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual”. Abramovich was hit with sanctions after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The sale will follow a two-step process under which £2.5bn will go into an escrow account until the government is satisfied the funds will go to a charity for victims of the war in Ukraine. Boehly’s group has committed to invest a further £1.75bn in the club. Crucially, Abramovich has agreed to legally binding guarantees allowing his £1.6bn loan to Chelsea to go into a frozen account under government control.
The government has sought assurances that the charity will be independent of Abramovich. Mike Penrose, a former Unicef UK executive director, has been asked to run the foundation.
“Late last night the UK government reached a position where we could issue a licence that permits the sale of Chelsea Football Club,” a government statement said. “Following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich, the government has worked hard to ensure Chelsea Football Club has been able to continue to play football. But we have always been clear that the long-term future of the club could only be secured under a new owner.”
It added: “We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war. The steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community. We have been in discussions with relevant international partners for necessary licences required and we thank them for all their cooperation.”
Abramovich changed the face of English football after buying Chelsea in 2003. The Russian oligarch ushered in an era of unprecedented success at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won 21 trophies under Abramovich, including five Premier League titles, two Champions Leagues and the Club World Cup.
The war in Ukraine made Abramovich’s ownership untenable. The 55-year-old put Chelsea up for sale at the start of March and placed the US bank Raine in charge of the process.
The race was eventually won by Boehly’s group. The American’s fellow investors include the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, the British property developer Jonathan Goldstein and the US investment firm Clearlake Capital. Boehly will be the controlling owner but Clearlake is taking a majority stake in Chelsea. The Conservative peer and Times columnist Daniel Finkelstein and celebrity publicist Barbara Charone become non-executive directors.
On Tuesday, the Premier League approved the sale after all prospective board members passed its owners’ and directors’ test.