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Group led by LA Dodgers owner signs $3.2b deal to buy Chelsea FC from Abramovich

Deal is largest ever for purchase of a sports team; UK government allows transaction, ensuring sanctioned Russian-Israeli oligarch doesn’t profit from it

American businessman Todd Boehly (center) applauds as he attends the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, May 22, 2022. (AP/Alastair Grant)
American businessman Todd Boehly (center) applauds as he attends the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, May 22, 2022. (AP/Alastair Grant)

LONDON  — The sale of Premier League club Chelsea is expected to be completed Monday after a “final and definitive” agreement was reached with a consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.

The club said Saturday that the agreement was reached a day earlier to sell to the Boehly and Clearlake Capital consortium. The price is 2.5 billion British pounds ($3.2 billion) — the highest ever for a sports team.

“It is expected that the transaction will be completed on Monday,” the club said.

The announcement followed a series of approvals allowing Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich to sell after he was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine. Abramovich has owned the club for 19 years.

The British government, which had sanctioned Abramovich, approved the sale this week after ensuring that the Russian oligarch could not profit from it. The Premier League had earlier given its approval.

Chelsea has been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March, and it expires Tuesday.

Russian-Israeli oligarch Roman Abramovich is seen at Ben Gurion Airport, March 14, 2022. (Screengrab/Walla)

Abramovich has been largely absent from Britain since 2018 when he withdrew an application to renew his visa amid a clampdown on rich Russians after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury. Britain blamed Russia for the pair’s exposure to a nerve agent, an allegation Moscow denied.

He gained Israeli citizenship that year, and although it is not clear how much time he spends in the country, he was seen at Ben Gurion airport in March.

In an updated list of the UK’s richest people, the Times newspaper said Abramovich had dropped in net worth from some £12 billion ($15 million) in 2021 to £6 billion ($7.5 billion) in 2022, likely due to sanctions.

Abramovich amassed a fortune in Russia’s oil and aluminum industries following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. In 2005, Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom paid $13 billion for the Sibneft oil company controlled by Abramovich, allowing Putin’s Kremlin to recapture state influence in the lucrative energy industry.

The tycoon has been hit hard by Western sanctions since Moscow launched its war against its neighbor in February.

Western countries including the United States and the EU have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Russia over its assault on Ukraine, including placing oligarchs and other individuals close to Putin on sanctions lists.

Analysts have said Russia’s invasion has been a personal disaster for Abramovich, leaving him sanctioned by the EU and UK, forced to sell Chelsea, and seeing billions wiped off the value of his assets.

TOI staff contributed to this report.

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