One of Britain’s richest men, Russian-born Roman Abramovich, widely believed to be a member of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, is said to be conducting a fire sale of his British assets, including a $260 million London property empire and his multibillion-dollar stake in the Chelsea football club, fearing his assets will be frozen by British lawmakers.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss said Wednesday that he was offered the iconic London football club, telling Swiss newspaper Blick: “Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England, he also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly. 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.”
Wyss said he had not been given an “exact selling price” and would not agree to the deal unless as part of a consortium of partners joining him in the investment. However Blick said the deal is thought to be valued at around $2.5 billion.
The comments by Wyss came after British lawmaker Chris Bryant used parliamentary privilege Tuesday to accuse Abramovich of plotting a speedy selloff of his trophy London properties, including a $200 million home on the city’s most exclusive street, where his neighbors include Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Bryant said in a debate in parliament: “I think [Abramovich] 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 added he was afraid the billionaire would have “have sold everything by the time we get round to sanctioning him.”
Bryant has been a regular thorn in Abramovich’s side: Last week, he used a parliamentary debate to air passages from a leaked Home Office report that alleged Abramovich was flagged by a 2019 government investigation for links to the Russian state and “corrupt activity and practices.”
The move to sell Chelsea comes after a week of turmoil for the club. Two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Abramovich said in a statement: “I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC. I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”
However the proposal appears to have caught trustees by surprise: They promptly reported the move as a “serious incident” to Britain’s Charity Commission.
It was notable for being one of the very few public statements Abramovich has ever made about Chelsea.
Last year, his fortune was said to be around $15 billion. However that changed with the collapse of Evraz, the London-listed mining giant in which he has a significant stake. It fell by 84 percent in value as sanctions hit, and knocked his wealth, with Forbes putting his real-time net worth Wednesday at $12.6 billion.
Abramovich was born in Saratov, in southwest Russia, and, orphaned at the age of 3, was brought up by his uncle. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he made billions from the former state energy companies he bought up in the 1990s. By 2008, when his net worth peaked at $23 billion, he was Russia’s richest man.
He is not believed to have spent any significant amount of time in the U.K. since 2018, when his application for a U.K. visa was withdrawn.
Abramovich has been involved in stalled peace talks between the Russians and Ukrainians, reportedly following an invitation from Ukrainian film producer Alexander Rodnyansky to get invloved.