Roman Abramovich has instructed American bank the Raine Group to handle the sale of Chelsea.
It is understood that the Russian is targeting American buyers as investment from China, the Far East and Eastern Europe has dried up for clear political reasons, although there are major doubts that any potential buyer will meet his £3billion valuation.
The Raine Group first acted for Chelsea in 2018 after talks with US private equity firm Silverlake and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe broke up without reaching an agreement.
The club has effectively been for sale ever since due to Abramovich’s conflict with the UK government after the Home Office declined to issue him a visa, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine giving him fresh impetus to sell.
Chelsea declined to comment. Abramovich wants a minimum of £3billion to sell Chelsea as he invites bids for the club.
But there are emerging doubts that the Russian oligarch will receive anywhere near that mark.
There is a sense that securing an American buyer, potentially through a hedge fund, might be the best route towards a sale. But Abramovich’s links with a Russian regime that has caused so much destruction in Ukraine could lead to reluctance from interested parties to deal with Chelsea.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned Boris Johnson in Parliament on why Abramovich hasn’t yet faced sanctions, with the Prime Minister saying: ‘It is not appropriate to comment on individual cases at this stage’
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, worth £4.3bn, claims he has been approached to consider buying Chelsea, potentially as part of a consortium.
Chelsea believe a sale to a US tycoon is their best route as they look for a new owner.
Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss (R) says he could form part of a consortium to purchase the club.
Speaking to Swiss newspaper Blick, Wyss said: ‘Like all other oligarchs, he (Abramovich) is also in a panic. Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly. I and three other people received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.
‘I have to wait four to five days now. Abramovich is currently asking far too much. You know, Chelsea owe him £2bn.
‘As of today, we don’t know the exact selling price. I can well imagine starting at Chelsea with partners. But I have to examine the general conditions first. But what I can already say: I’m definitely not doing something like this alone. If I buy Chelsea, then with a consortium consisting of six to seven investors.’
However, there is doubt whether a consortium style takeover would have longevity given the huge financial demands expected at a club the size of Chelsea.
Nevertheless, it is clear now that Abramovich is preparing his Chelsea exit strategy.
It emerged on Tuesday that Abramovich is trying to sell his portfolio of London properties.
Abramovich is also looking to offload his £200million London property portfolio within days, including his 15-bedroom mansion at Kensington Palace Gardens, valued at more than £150 million. The property sits on a road between several embassies and is guarded at each end.
The Russian’s portfolio also includes a £22m three-storey penthouse at the Chelsea waterfront.
And Sportsmail has now learned that the Russian oligarch has spent time in the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks with a view to transferring part of his wealth there.
But any hopes of a quick sale of Chelsea remains in the balance due to what will be a reluctance of any interested parties to go anywhere near the absolute minimum £3bn Abramovich wants.
Sources claim Abramovich believes Chelsea is worth north of £3bn – as much as £4bn – but the likelihood of receiving such offers appears remote.
It seems inevitable that the Russian businessman will have to lower his expectations, but whether anyone is willing to offer as high as the £3bn that he would consider is unclear.
Abramovich attempted to step back from the daily running of Chelsea on Saturday, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Blues boss has tried to hand the ‘stewardship and care’ of Chelsea to the club’s charitable foundation trustees.
That led the Charity Commission to contact the Stamford Bridge club for more detail on Abramovich’s plans, after several of the trustees raised concerns over technicalities.
Labour MP Chris Bryant has called for the UK Government to impose sanctions on Abramovich after a number of Russian oligarchs have already fallen under such penalties.
Abramovich is understood to have attempted to hand control of Chelsea to the foundation trustees in a bid to protect the club.
The Chelsea owner would not receive any protection from sanctions through stepping away from daily control at Stamford Bridge.
Sportsmail revealed on Tuesday that Chelsea trustees will insist on an impenetrable indemnity policy before agreeing to Abramovich’s plan to pass over stewardship of the club to its charitable foundation.
Abramovich’s proposal, which was announced on Saturday night, is in the balance with a number of trustees extremely apprehensive about accepting stewardship of the Stamford Bridge club.
And Sportsmail has learned that one of the main conditions the trustees will insist on is the inclusion of a robust indemnity insurance policy to ensure they are not liable for any financial ramifications the club may suffer while they are put in charge.