Abramovich looks to sell Chelsea FC and £100mn London home

Roman Abramovich is looking to sell Chelsea football club and a £100mn-plus London home, putting some of the city’s most prized assets in play as pressure builds on the oligarch following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Advisers at merchant bank Raine are contacting billionaires and other high-net worth individuals in the US and elsewhere to gauge interest in acquiring the English Premier League club, multiple people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The attempt to sell the football club comes after Abramovich ceded “stewardship” of the club to a charitable trust on Saturday.

The billionaire, who earned his fortune during Russia’s turbulent 1990s by acquiring privatised oil and gas assets from the state then selling them back to the Kremlin at a large profit, bought Chelsea in 2003.

Abramovich’s ownership of the club has turned him into a household name in the UK, but pressure has built in recent weeks as Russia’s assault on Ukraine led to calls for targeted western sanctions to be imposed on the elite group of oligarchs with links to President Vladimir Putin.

Separately, multiple people familiar with the matter told the Financial Times that wealthy buyers have been taken for viewings at 16 Kensington Palace Gardens, a Grade II-listed mansion on Crown Estate land, near to embassies and the homes of fellow billionaires.

Abramovich reportedly paid £90mn for the mansion in 2011 and has spent tens of millions more refurbishing the home. He also owns a Thames-side flat in Chelsea.

On Tuesday, Labour MP Chris Bryant said in the House of Commons that Abramovich was looking at selling both of those London properties. He also suggested that sales could be pushed through in the next few days and urged the UK government to move quicker on sanctioning oligarchs.

Abramovich was not on a list of Russian individuals targeted by UK economic sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine.

A number of people who deal with wealthy clients cast doubt on the prospect of a rapid sale of Chelsea or the London mansion because of uncertainty around potential sanctions.

A spokesperson for Chelsea and Abramovich declined to comment.

As well as potential buyers, Abramovich’s ownership might deter estate agents and lawyers who have been forced to comply with a stricter due diligence regime in recent years. 

“You can’t just magic a buyer in a few days for something like this. Nobody could rush these sales through, especially something this complicated. You’ve got to satisfy so many agents and lawyers that I’d be astonished if it could happen this quickly,” said Roarie Scarisbrick, a buying agent at Property Vision.

“If you’re selling anything of that value it’s not like you have a for sale sign outside,” said James Forbes, a director at high-end estate agency Forbes Gilbert-Green.

But he added that in order to sell Abramovich “would have to get through all the regulations and the new sanctions that have come out. We have an anti-money laundering and compliance team we have to go through. No one would be able to sell it without going through all of that”.

Abramovich’s ownership of Chelsea has made him a household name in the UK and beyond. Buyers have been circling the club for years. In 2018, Raine was appointed to help value the team after a series of approaches.

Abramovich’s Fordstam entity, through which he owns Chelsea, has accumulated losses of almost £1.1bn through June 2021. Fordstam has close to £1.5bn in debt in the form of loans from Abramovich. In theory, he could call in the debt, which would need to be repaid within 18 months.