Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has hired an investment bank to consider the sale of his English Premier League team Chelsea, the Sunday Times newspaper reported. A source at the club denied Abramovich planned any sale.
The Sunday Times said the move by the Russian followed his rejection of an offer to buy a minority stake in the club by US private equity firm Silver Lake Partners.
Chelsea’s directors have brought in Joe Ravitch from the Raine Group, a bank that specialises in sport and technology, the newspaper said without citing its sources. The New York bank has valued the West London club at 2 billion pounds. It is unclear whether the reported sale is for a complete stake or sell a portion of the club to outside entity.
The source at Chelsea, who declined to be identified, said: “The club is not for sale. The owner is not thinking of selling the club.” Separately, a spokesman for Abramovich in Moscow declined to comment on “market speculation.” Raine Group did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Earlier this year Jim Ratcliffe, owner of chemicals giant Ineos, bid 2 billion pounds ($2.55 billion) to buy the club, which Abramovich also turned down, the Daily Mail reported.
Tensions between Britain and Russia grew this year after London accused Moscow of poisoning former double-agent Sergei Skripal in Britain in March. Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning but wealthy Russians have been affected by the frosty relations between the two countries.
Abramovich ran into problems renewing his British visa earlier this year, which caused him to miss Chelsea’s FA Cup final victory over Manchester United in May. Shortly afterwards, Chelsea said work on a new stadium in London would be suspended indefinitely, citing an unfavourable investment climate. On the pitch, Chelsea have failed to qualify for the prestigious Champions League for second time in three years which comes after regular qualification since the Russian oligarch took over. Abramovich had bought Chelsea for a sum of £140 million in 2003.