The £4.25billion sale of Chelsea football club by sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich has been approved by the UK government, ensuring the club’s survival under new US ownership .
Nadine Dorries, Britain’s Culture Secretary, wrote on Twitter on Monday that the government had issued a license to sell the club, which she said would help secure the “long-term future” of west London.
“We are confident that the proceeds from the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or other sanctioned individuals,” Dorries tweeted.
“I want to thank everyone, especially the officials who have worked tirelessly to keep the club playing and to enable this sale, protecting the fans and the wider football community.”
The funds from the sale are expected to be paid into a frozen account: ministers insisted on guarantees that they could never be used to benefit Abramovich or his associates.
On Tuesday night, the Premier League approved the takeover by a consortium led by US financier Todd Boehly, saying it passed its “owners and directors test”.
A government spokesperson said: “The actions taken today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community.
“We have had discussions with the relevant international partners for the necessary licenses required and we thank them for all their cooperation.”
Dorries is confident that the required approval from the Portuguese government – Abramovich holds a Portuguese passport – will be obtained and the deal will go ahead, his allies said. The European Commission helped Lisbon assess the deal. The main problem in London was the insistence of British ministers that neither Abramovich nor those connected with him would benefit from the proceeds of the sale.
Abramovich’s advisers and the government have been in talks for weeks over how to deal with the proceeds and the £1.5billion debt owed by Chelsea to an offshore vehicle linked to the oligarch. The deal marks the end of Abramovich’s two decades of funding a club he turned into world champions. In his time, Chelsea won five Premier League titles and two UEFA Champions League trophies.
Boehly, which owns stakes in the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team and the LA Dodgers baseball team, is leading a takeover backed by California-based investment firm Clearlake Capital, Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss and Guggenheim Partners Managing Director Mark Walter.
When completed, US investors would control four of the so-called Big Six clubs in the Premier League, Europe’s wealthiest domestic competition.
Arsenal is owned by Stan Kroenke, the Glazer family controls Manchester United and John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group owns Liverpool. Abramovich put Chelsea up for sale just days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Portugal feared approving the sale without the blessing of Brussels, which has drawn up sanctions and offers guidance on how to implement them.
A deal was likely, a Brussels official said, since the money would go to charity rather than benefit Abramovich directly. But they were clear that the final decision to approve a sale lay with London.
Portuguese Foreign Minister João Gomes Cravinho, speaking in the Cape Verde Islands, where he is on an official visit, said: “Regarding Chelsea, of course, there is an absolutely fundamental point here. : Portugal is applying the sanctions that have been decreed by the European Union.
“We do it with rigor, we do it without exception and that’s how we will continue to apply them.”
Additional reporting by Robert Wright.