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Swiss tycoon Wyss says he’s considering Abramovich offer to buy Chelsea -paper

Randy Mancini 5 Mar 2
Swiss medical device company Synthes Chairman of the board Wyss speaks during the general shareholders meeting in Solothurn
FILE PHOTO: Swiss medical device company Synthes Chairman of the board Hansjoerg Wyss speaks during the general shareholders meeting in Solothurn April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

March 2, 2022

ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss business tycoon Hansjoerg Wyss is considering buying football club Chelsea from Russian Roman Abramovich, Wyss told Swiss newspaper Blick as British lawmakers continued to push for sanctions against the billionaire.

“Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly now. I, along with three other people, received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich,” Blick quoted Wyss as saying in an interview published on Wednesday.

Abramovich’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the parliament on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday declined to comment on whether sanctions would be imposed on Abramovich, but said the “vice” was tightening on those around Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer asked Johnson why there had not been sanctions against the Chelsea owner.

“He’s a person of interest to the Home Office (interior ministry) because of his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices,” said Starmer.

“Last week, the prime minister said that Abramovich is facing sanctions, he later corrected the record to say that he isn’t. Well, why on earth isn’t he?”

Johnson responded that he could not go into details on specific cases.

“It’s not appropriate for me to comment on individual cases at this stage,” Johnson said. “But be in no doubt that the actions that we’ve already taken… are having an effect in Moscow by exposing the ownership of properties of companies in the way that we are.”

He added: “They will have heard what the president of the United States had to say last night, the vice is tightening on the Putin regime, and it will continue to tighten.”

Wyss said he would have to wait four or five days to see how things play out and suggested it would not be a straightforward deal to complete.

“Abramovich is asking for far too much at the moment. You know: Chelsea owes him 2 billion pounds. But Chelsea has no money. Meaning: those who buy Chelsea should compensate Abramovich,” Wyss told the newspaper.

On Saturday, Abramovich said he was giving “stewardship” of the club to trustees of their charitable foundation after calls for him to be subject to sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Since then, several Russian individuals and entities have been put under sanctions by the UK government, and some British opposition lawmakers have said Abramovich should be included on that list.

One, Chris Bryant, said the UK should seize his assets and bar him from owning the football club.

The move to pass day-to-day control of the club to the foundation trustees, which includes the club’s American chairman Bruce Buck, did not change Abramovich’s status as owner of the club.

Wyss said Abramovich’s exact sales price was still unclear.

“I can well imagine joining Chelsea with partners. But first I have to check the general conditions carefully. What I can already say, though, is that I certainly won’t do something like that on my own. If I buy Chelsea, it will be with a consortium of six or seven investors.”

Abramovich bought the West London club in 2003 and his investment has helped produce the most successful era in the team’s history – winning five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and the Champions League twice.

The 55-year-old who has Israeli and Portuguese citizenship, was one of the most powerful businessmen who earned fabulous fortunes after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. Forbes has put his net worth at $13.3 billion.

(Reporting by Michael Shields and Simon Evans; editing by John Stonestreet and Christian Radnedge)