Abramovich should sell Chelsea after refusing to condemn Putin invasion, ex-minister says

2 March 2022, 11:20 | Updated: 2 March 2022, 12:24

Roman Abramovich has attempted to step back from the daily running of Chelsea
Roman Abramovich has attempted to step back from the daily running of Chelsea. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich should sell the club after refusing to condemn Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, a former cabinet minister has said.

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It comes amid claims a Swiss billionaire, Hansjorg Wyss, has been offered the chance to buy Chelsea, while reports suggest Mr Abramovich is hastily trying to sell his London properties to avoid potential financial sanctions.

"He's a very close associate of Putin's and all kinds of allegations are made about how close he is to Putin," David Mellor, a supporter of the club, told LBC's Nick Ferrari.

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On Saturday, Mr Abramovich attempted to step back from the daily running of Chelsea - which he has owned since 2003 - in what was believed to be a bid to protect the club in the wake of the invasion.

He said he was handing over "stewardship and care" to the club's charitable foundation trustees, but this led the Charity Commission to ask for more details after several trustees raised concerns over technicalities.

Mr Mellor said the Russian-Israeli billionaire's statement "appears to have been cobbled up very quickly and appears not to have been the subject of proper consultation and agreement with the charitable board that there is at Chelsea".

He added: "He didn't say a word about how shocked he was at what was happening in Ukraine, there was nothing, and he is a man who is part of Putin’s inner circle and he cannot expect while Putin is behaving as he is to be allowed to just operate a football club or indeed even live here in the UK."

It comes as Labour MP Chris Bryant called for the UK government to impose sanctions on Mr Abramovich.

The head of the parliamentary standards committee said the Government was moving too slowly on imposing sanctions, with the businessman reportedly already in the process of selling his London properties.

"I think he is terrified of being sanctioned, which is why he’s already going to sell his home tomorrow, and sell another flat as well. My anxiety is that we're taking too long about these things," he told the Commons on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Mr Abramovich claimed earlier this week he was attempting to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Mr Wyss has admitted interest in purchasing Chelsea, but only as part of a consortium.

Mr Abramovich is understood to want to retain his ownership but that could prove close to impossible should the Government impose sanctions.

Wyss, 86, admitted he will look into the details of any possible deal, with the asking price thought to push beyond £2 billion.

"Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England, he also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly," he told Swiss newspaper Blick.

"I and three other people received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.

"I have to wait four to five days now. Abramovich is currently asking far too much.

"You know, Chelsea owe him £2 billion. But Chelsea has no money.

"As of today, we don't know the exact selling price."