The People of the UK know Russians in the country to be rich, grand and sometimes notorious. The Russians in the UK sometimes feel hard done by. Oligarchs from Russia began migrating the country as the USSR broke up. Some Russians were in Britain to evade the law of their land and were granted asylum. Others like Roman Abramovich had business motives.
This apparently angered the Russians and they began assassinating the ones they thought were a threat.
Chelsea fans are well aware of one particular Russian: Roman Abramovich. In 2003, he bought Chelsea from Ken Bates when the club could no longer service its debt. Since then the Russian has invested in excess of £2 billion into the team and won the most titles in all of England.
Roman Abramovich is someone hung up in between. Now, he can’t even live in the UK for prolonged periods of time after he was denied Visa following the Sergei Skripal poisoning.
In 2018, Abramovich got an Israeli Citizenship after the UK denied him an investor Visa. The government’s approach was influenced by the Salisbury Poisoning incident with Sergei Skripal. Now, there are rumblings of the Russian wanting to sell his ownership of Chelsea. To understand what might happen, let’s understand everything there is to understand about the Russian billionaire.
The Life and Times of Roman Abramovich
Roman Abramovich began humbly as a child. His parents descended from the Baltic state of Lithuania. Abramovich was orphaned at the tender age of five. He worked whatever jobs he could find and as opportunities presented themselves, made money in any business.
Roman Abramovich: A bit of Russia, a hint of Oligarchy and the shades of Blue
The Russia of the 90s was a wild place to be for a young, aspiring businessman. Abramovich, who was raised by relatives in Russia, smelled opportunity as the state broke up. From a thriving business of rubber dolls, he went for coal and petroleum. In the Russia of the ninties, if you entered the petroleum scene, you were destined to become an Oligarch.
You see, Gorbachev’s Perestroika may not have achieved what it hoped for in the USSR, however, it did make life after USSR very rich for those involved in the privatization of state businesses. One such man was Abramovich. He moved from the rubber dolls business to oil and gas.
In the early years, he partnered the now deceased Boris Berezovsky and embarked on the ambitious goal of creating a vertically integrated Russian Petrochemical company. That company would turn out to be SIBNEFT, bought for a meagre £100 million as the USSR broke up. The real value of SIBNEFT even at those dire times was estimated to be somewhere close to £3 billion. That, in a nutshell is how the Oligarchs came to be in Russia.
There were ‘The Seven Oligarchs’ in Russia before Putin came to power. These people were funding the 1996 re-election bid of Boris Yeltsin. In effect, they were buying autonomy in exchange of getting Yeltsin elected. This was done by ORT (Russia’s main Television network) as they ran white-wash campaigns in support of Yeltsin.
The Putin Era
As Yeltsin’s influence began to erode following the 1998 collapse of the Russian Rouble, ORT was tasked with white-washing another candidate: Vladimir Putin. Putin had been in the KGB (or its successor) and was a surprise name for the post of President. However, he had the blessings of Yeltsin.
A conflict arose here for Berezovsky, as Putin swore to uproot the power that Oligarchs held in Russian economy. Roman Abramovich had the foresight to align himself with Putin as Berezovsky declared all out war, fleeing to Britain. The long and short of it is that while Abramovich remained in favour with Putin, his partner was an enemy of the state.
A failed lawsuit against Abramovich resulted in injury and insult for the former Oligarch supreme. He was ordered to pay even Abramovich’s arbitration fee. Shortly after, the businessman ended his own life due to depression.
Abramovich largely emerged just as influential in Russia under Putin as he was before. Since then, he has been the owner of Millhouse Capital, the holding company of Chelsea FC. In addition he owns several nickel businesses in his homeland while returning as a Citizen of Israel due to his Jewish ancestry.
The UK’s denial of a Visa has led to Abramovich not even needing a Visa to visit the UK, thanks to his new allegiance to Israel.
Did we tell you he is the richest Israeli alive? Abramovich also owns various businesses in the steel and nickel industry. He sold his SIBNEFT shares for a sum close to £8 billion to the Russian state-owned Gazprom, converting most of his wealth in cash.
Abramovich, Salisbury and the Stamford Bridge stadium redevelopment
Roman Abramovich’s club has been trying to get regulatory approval from the city council to redevelop Stamford Bridge at SW6, London. The regulatory approvals weren’t forthcoming at the beginning but have since been granted. Only for all these plans to be stonewalled by the UK government’s defiance to grant an investor Visa to Roman Abramovich.
Chelsea have followed the Visa issue by indefinitely putting the plans for a new Stamford Bridge on hold. An investment that would have in itself been worth over £1 billion. All of this was set in motion by the March 2018 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter who had arrived from Russia only a day prior.
The Skripal Poisoning- How it affects Abramovich and Chelsea Football Club
A-234, a KGB developed nerve agent was used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England. The Novichok poison led to hospitalization and recovery for the once detained Russian double agent. However, the alleged involvement of the Russian state led the UK to evict Russian diplomats in collaboration with at least 20 countries across the world. Russian Diplomats were expelled in scores across the world, in unprecedented numbers. Russia responded with diplomatic expulsions of its own, escalating the conflict.
Effectively, the UK cracked down on any and all economic activity by Russia born citizens on it’s land. Who better than Roman Abramovich, whose Visa application had been placed well before the Salisbury poisoning- to prove a point. Especially when he owns the second most hated Premier League club after Manchester United.
Well, what did you expect from the government, especially as high profile targets were dead: a cat and two guinea pigs!
In short, the poisoning led to Abramovich’s forced withdrawal from the UK. He has not watched a single Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge in the recently concluded 2018-19 Premier League season. The good news is that Roman Abramovich will be in Baku, Azerbaijan to watch the UEFA Europa League final against Arsenal.
A new Stadium at Stamford Bridge may still be on the cards, maybe?
The Structure of Chelsea FC’s ownership by Roman Abramovich
A lot of people talk about how Chelsea hoard talent, to the point that Chelsea are currently serving a two-window ban for quasi-legal transfers of underage players. Nobody talks about what lies beneath the carpets of Stamford Bridge’s corridors.
Ken Bates sold Chelsea for around £150 million, and the club is currently valued at £2 billion. If Abramovich were to sell and encash his investments, he would be owed the investment he has made since his arrival almost 15 years ago. That is billions itself and any new owner will have to pay that to the Russian.
Talk of him selling the club to other prominent businessmen has still been rife. Most recently Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been tasked with buying the club. The Englishman has refused however, saying he is a Manchester United fan, and painstakingly so.
Abramovich, through his sources, has leaked to the media various clarifications about his investment in Chelsea Football Club. Clarifying that he remains committed to the club. The club has itself broken their transfer record in back to back summers (Morata and Kepa). So any talk of Roman’s interest vaning is merely speculation on account of his absence from the stands.
The reality is that despite the source of his income being dubious to most in the UK; His involvement with the Kremlin is a political matter. There’s nothing that will stop ‘The Russian Oligarch’ from supporting his team.