Roman Abramovich has confirmed his decision to sell Chelsea amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian-Israeli billionaire, who has owned the English Premier League football club since 2003 and helped steer it to 19 major trophies, has promised to donate money from the sale to help victims of the war.
But the 55-year-old’s glittering reign in west London is now effectively over, with a consortium of billionaires already making their interest in a deal public.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and US investor Todd Boehly are understood to be two of the parties joining forces and preparing a bid for the Blues.
“As I have stated before, I have always taken decisions with the club’s best interest at heart,” read Mr Abramovich’s statement on Wednesday.
“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.”
The 86-year-old Mr Wyss has already revealed he would bid for Chelsea as part of a consortium.
Mr Abramovich could yet come under British government sanctions given his close links to the Russian state, amid suggestions he’s been attempting to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
Chelsea won two Champions League titles, as well as the Club World Cup title earlier this year, under his ownership.
Mr Abramovich has also pledged to donate any net proceeds from the club’s sale to help victims of the war in Ukraine.
“The sale of the club will not be fast-tracked but will follow due process,” his statement said.
“I will not be asking for any loans to be repaid. This has never been about business nor money for me, but about pure passion for the game and club.
“Moreover, I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated.
“The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine.
“This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.”
Mr Abramovich has faced calls to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which he so far has not done.
British Labour Party politician Chris Bryant used parliamentary privilege to claim in the House of Commons on Tuesday that Mr Abramovich was already looking to sell London properties, speculating “he’s terrified of being sanctioned”.
The speed of his pending exit from Chelsea is striking as Mr Abramovich was trying to instigate a plan this past weekend to relinquish some control to keep the club under his ownership.
But the charity regulator began investigating an attempt to try to distance himself from decision-making at Chelsea for the first time by announcing plans to shift the “stewardship and care” of the club its foundation trustees.
“Please know that this has been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and it pains me to part with the club in this manner,” Mr Abramovich said.
“However, I do believe this is in the best interest of the club.
“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.”