Chelsea’s Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich hands over ‘stewardship’ of soccer club

File photo: In this file photo dated Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich sits in his box before the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

File photo: In this file photo dated Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich sits in his box before the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge stadium in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich handed over the “stewardship and care” of the Premier League club to its charitable foundation trustees on Saturday in an apparent move to fend off calls for him to completely give up control following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian billionaire is not selling the club but is giving up any control for now after being targeted by figures, including politicians, over his ownership. The foundation is chaired by Bruce Buck, who is also chairman of the club. Chelsea director of finance Paul Ramos is also among the trustees.

Abramovich, who has owned Chelsea since 2003, made no mention of the war in his statement.

“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart,” he said. “I remain committed to these values. That is why I am today giving trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation the stewardship and care of Chelsea FC.

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“I believe that currently they are in the best position to look after the interests of the club, players, staff, and fans.”

Abramovich has invested more than $2 billion in Chelsea, transforming the club into one of the most successful in England. The west London club is currently world and European champion.

“During my nearly 20-year ownership of Chelsea FC,” he said, “I have always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future, while also playing a positive role in our communities.”

Abramovich is a former Russian provincial governor and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and became a steel and metals magnate. Now a dual Israeli citizen with a net worth estimated at more than $13 billion, Abramovich has used his fortune to buy Chelsea and homes in London and New York.

Abramovich has not had a British visa since 2018 when a renewal application was taking longer than usual to go through and was withdrawn.

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That came at a time when Britain pledged to review the long-term visas of rich Russians in the aftermath of the poisonings of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. Britain blames Russia for the pair’s exposure to a nerve agent, an allegation Moscow denies, and Abramovich is not linked to.

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