The humanitarian aid foundation to be set up with the £2.5billion Chelsea sale proceeds has moved a big step closer to reality.
Government chiefs have written to the independent foundation organisers, revealing their “priority” is now to complete checks and balances as quickly as possible.
Former UNICEF UK executive director Mike Penrose holds great hope the foundation he has been tasked with establishing could soon be operational.
Penrose believes the foundation could save millions of lives, with the unprecedented scale of funding setting a new standard for global humanitarianism.
Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital finally completed their £4.25billion Chelsea takeover on Monday, with Roman Abramovich selling the Stamford Bridge club after 19 years at the helm.
Russian-Israeli billionaire Abramovich’s UK Government sanctions mean the 55-year-old cannot benefit from the Chelsea sale, nor from the mooted independent foundation.
Penrose revealed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has made contact with him this week, with scrutiny on plans for the foundation now being stepped up.
“We’re hoping it’s good news; the Government is showing willing, they’ve got back to us,” Penrose told the PA news agency.
“Now they’ve hit the deadline on the sale that they very much had to hit, they are now very much focused on this.
“The proposal is with the Government and they are in contact. And we hope very much that they will move on this very quickly now because the imperative is there.
“Now the sale is through they have been in contact, they’ve expressed a strong willingness to move forward on it.
“We’ve written to them with a letter of encouragement, saying that we’re really looking forward to working with them on this.
“The Government wrote very quickly after the sale to say ‘this is our priority now and we will be moving on it’.
“I’m available to help 24/7. They haven’t asked that, but I am.
“They just asked us to explain who are the key intermediaries, who are the people that we will be able to use to get this over the line.”
US magnate Boehly’s Chelsea takeover ended 12 weeks of fraught negotiations, with the west London club’s future now finally secure.
Abramovich officially put Chelsea up for sale on March 2 before being sanctioned by the Government on March 10.
The 55-year-old had always pledged to donate the sale proceeds to victims of the war in Ukraine.
The sanctions on Abramovich mean those sale funds have been held in a frozen account, with the Government required to issue new licences to allow money to be donated to the eventual new foundation.
The Government wants to ensure proceeds from the sale will benefit the relief and rebuilding effort in Ukraine.
“We have begun the process of ensuring the proceeds are used for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine that result from Russian aggression; further details will be set out in due course,” said a Government spokesperson on Monday, when the Chelsea sale was completed.
Penrose’s proposals include the creation of a managed investment fund to ensure the Chelsea sale proceeds could finance the foundation for decades to come.
Ukraine would become the first beneficiary but the foundation would aim to offer aid to conflicts all over the globe.
“Obviously the Government wants to know the people we will engage and be dealing with, and I’ve given them all of those assurances,” said Penrose.
“Providing the Government is assured the structure we set up meets all the checks and balances and has the right governance in place, then hopefully the funds would be transferred from the frozen account into the new foundation.
“This could genuinely change humanitarian aid.
“If we spend this in a way that cuts through some of the bureaucracy that’s developed around aid, and is really deployed by the best-placed people into the best-placed agencies to have an immediate effect, it’s not an exaggeration to say it could save the lives of millions of people.
“It’s hugely exciting. I’ve spent most of my life working on humanitarian aid. There’s always been a lot of language around initiatives that could be game-changing and this is the first time I’ve ever felt that could actually be true.
“And this is where I’m really excited to be working with the Government now, to have their input to build something that could be a real game-changer coming out of the UK after what has been a difficult period.
“And creating something that we can be really proud of, and can be world-leading in terms of helping people affected in conflict states. It would be a wonderful outcome if we can make it work.”