Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich said he will sell the club – with the “net proceeds” of the sale going to benefit victims of the war in Ukraine.
The Russian billionaire, who took over in 2003, said money generated from his sale of the club will go to a foundation benefiting “all victims of the war in Ukraine”.
It is not clear if his reference to “all victims” means just Ukrainians, or Russians as well.
But, he said it “includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery”.
‘In the best interests of the club’
In a statement, published by the reigning European and world soccer champions on their website, he said: “I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart.
“In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club’s sponsors and partners.”
Mr Abramovich said he would not ask for loans he has made to the club – reported to total £1.5bn – to be repaid to him, and said the sale would not be fast-tracked but would “follow due process”.
He said he had told his aides to set up a charitable foundation that would receive all net proceeds from the sale.
Mr Abramovich did not speak publicly about the invasion when it first began last Thursday. Over the weekend he said he wanted to entrust the “care and stewardship” of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
He has put a £3bn price tag on Chelsea as he prepares to end his near-two decade ownership of the club.
Questions remain about sanctions
It comes as Mr Abramovich – who has long-denied links to the Putin regime – is also reportedly putting his London property portfolio up for sale.
However, questions remain, about the viability of a transaction against the current geopolitical backdrop and Mr Abramovich faces the possibility of being sanctioned by the UK government after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Abramovich’s bankers are keen to complete a deal quickly and potentially as soon as May, according to one insider.
The issue of Mr Abramovich’s links to the Russian state was raised by Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, amid pressure for tougher sanctions against Russian oligarchs.
Today’s key developments in the Ukraine invasion:
• Supermarket shelves empty as fighting enters seventh day
• UN says at least 800,000 Ukrainians have fled their homes
• Russia finally ‘reveals’ how many troops have died
• Boris Johnson accuses Putin of ‘war crime’
• Opposition leader Navalny calls for daily protests
He has ploughed unprecedented amounts of money into the Stamford Bridge side and under his ownership, it has won the Champions League twice, the Premier League and FA Cup five times and a significant number of other trophies.
His statement concluded: “I hope that I will be able to visit Stamford Bridge one last time to say goodbye to all of you in person. It has been a privilege of a lifetime to be part of Chelsea FC and I am proud of all our joint achievements. Chelsea Football Club and its supporters will always be in my heart.”
Ukrainian footballer trying to persuade family to leave Kyiv
It comes as Ukrainian football legend Andriy Shevchenko, who is currently in London, has been trying to persuade his mother and sister to leave the Ukrainian capital.
He told Sky Sports News: “I try to talk (to them) every hour, every 20 minutes because there’s a lot of action going on now.
“Cities under attack, missile attacks, Kyiv is under attack, a lot of cities it is very similar… My mum and my sister, like most of the Ukrainian people refuse to leave, are staying there to fight for our nation, to fight for our freedom, to fight for our soul.
“I tried many times (to get them to leave), but the answer is no, (they say) ‘we want to stay here’.”
“This is the Ukrainian spirit.”