The proceeds from the sale of Chelsea will be frozen in a UK bank account until the Government has received further assurances that the money will solely go to support humanitarian causes in Ukraine.
By 11pm on Tuesday night the Government had reached a position where it felt it could issue a licence permitting the sale of the west London club to a consortium led by American businessman Todd Boehly, a move which helps to secure the Blues’ future and effectively help them return to business as usual after months in limbo.
The deal has been one of the most complex in the history of sport, following the Government decision to freeze the assets of the Blues’ Russian owner Roman Abramovich in March over his alleged links to the country’s president Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
Key to the Government’s decision to approve the sale late on Tuesday night were the receipt of assurances that no sanctioned individuals, including Abramovich, would benefit from the sale proceeds.
The Government expects the funds, understood to be £2.5billion, to clear into a UK bank account in the coming days, at which point they will be frozen. PA understands that onward movement of funds from that account will be subject to the issuing of a further licence.
A spokesperson for Abramovich said earlier this month that an independently-managed foundation was being set up to oversee the proceeds of sale. It has since been confirmed that Mike Penrose, a former executive director of Unicef UK, is helping to establish the foundation.
The Government will want further details of the foundation’s plans and governance procedures, to ensure they offer it and the Charity Commission sufficient ongoing oversight of its activities.
The Government will not countenance any of the proceeds being used to support the Russian war effort in any way, or any sanctioned individuals.
Owing to Abramovich holding Portuguese citizenship, the British government had to provide assurances to that country’s leadership regarding the arrangements it had made for the sale proceeds, as well as the European Union which has imposed its own sanctions on Abramovich.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries tweeted on Wednesday morning: “Given the sanctions we placed on those linked to Putin and the bloody invasion of Ukraine, the long-term future of the club can only be secured under a new owner.
“We are satisfied the proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or other sanctioned individuals. I want to thank everyone, especially officials who’ve worked tirelessly to keep the club playing and enable this sale, protecting fans and the wider football community.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said he was “confident of a bright future” for Chelsea under the club’s new owners.
Chelsea had been operating under a special Government licence after Abramovich’s UK assets were frozen, which was due to expire on May 31.
Earlier this month, the deal seemed close to collapse over concerns proceeds would not reach good causes as promised.
Abramovich, who bought Chelsea in 2003, denied he had asked for his £1.5bn loan to the club be repaid when the sale was concluded.
The takeover will see Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Boehly become Chelsea’s controlling owner, even though California investment firm Clearlake Capital will assume the majority shareholding. It is reported they plan to invest £1.75bn into the club, placing the overall takeover value at £4.25bn.
The Premier League announced on Tuesday evening that it had approved the sale and that its owners’ and directors’ test had been applied to all prospective directors.
Once Boehly’s takeover is completed, the Blues will be able to return to business as usual – and there will be no time to lose in reconfiguring the playing squad.
Thomas Tuchel’s side, who won the Champions League last season, finished third in the Premier League – 19 points adrift of champions Manchester City – and were beaten by Liverpool in the finals of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
The German manager is set to lose key defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen on free transfers to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
Sir Martin Broughton, whose own consortium was shortlisted in the bidding process, wished the Boehly group well.
“I want to thank the members of my consortium for their professionalism and commitment to putting together our bid,” Broughton said in a statement released to the PA news agency.
“All any of us want is the very best future for Chelsea Football Club, the fans, the players and our community.
“I will remain a Chelsea fan for the rest of my life and wish the new owners the best of luck.”