In the wake of Ron Gourlay leaving the club, Chelsea board member Marina Granovskaia is set to take on additional responsibilities at the club and could be in line to replace Gourlay as the club's CEO.
Granovskaia was only just appointed to Chelsea's board of directors in June 2013, but since 2010, she has been serving as Roman Abramovich's de facto representative, acting on his behalf in board meetings and in transfer negotiations.
While the opinions of Michael Emenalo, Jose Mourinho, and Piet de Visser naturally hold considerable weight when it comes to transfer deals, it is ultimately Granovskaia who controls the purse-strings at Chelsea.
Granovskaia has been taking the lead in important transfer negotiations for years, and as an example of her style, Napoli owner Aurelio de Laurentiis famously sung her name during a press conference when being asked about Edinson Cavani moving to Chelsea back in the summer of 2013.
Granovskaia also allegedly told John Terry to "take it or [funning] leave it" when Terry was holding out for better contract terms this summer. While some might bristle at the fact that she was seemingly willing to let Terry walk, her astute financial sense has helped the club land a number of excellent players below market value (Diego Costa being the most recent example) while selling a number of players above market value (David Luiz being the most recent example).
Granovskaia and owner Roman Abramovich have a long history, and they have been working together since Abramovich hired Granovskaia for a position at Sibneft shortly after she graduated from Moscow State University with honours back in 1997. Sibneft, of course, was Roman Abramovich's oil company that he bought from the government for around £60 million back in 1995, and sold to Gazprom for over £8 billion just ten years later.
Prior to joining Chelsea, Granovskaia had also worked for Millhouse, Abramovich's asset management firm.
She is also one of the primary architects behind Chelsea's unique approach to youth development, which sees the club accumulate as much young talent as it can find and then send them on loan to develop. This forward-thinking approach has been extremely successful, so much so that the club is earning £9.1 million this season to simply watch its young players continue to improve both their skills and their values on the transfer market. Further, this system has allowed Chelsea to bring in some of the best young players in the world, namely Thibaut Courtois and Kurt Zouma, at an extremely low cost relative to their talent.
As part of building the infrastructure of Chelsea's loan army, Granovskaia has been very involved with developing the partnership with Vitesse Arnhem. She can be seen attending matches with owner Alexander Chigirinsky and worked with former chief marketing officer Peter Gansler on the lucrative Truphone sponsorship deal.
Additionally, back in 2011, she and Didier Drogba were instrumental in convincing Wilfried Bony to join Vitesse. Bony went on to score 53 times in 73 matches for Vitesse before being sold to Swansea for £12 million, a hefty profit on the original £3 million fee. If interested in reading more about Granovskaia's involvement at Vitesse, we covered this in detail last year.
With Granovskaia assuming additional responsibilities, and especially if Granovskaia is named as the new CEO, I could envision Yevgeny Merkel joining Chelsea in an executive capacity.
Merkel is a German-Russian who has been educated in London and the United States and runs a consulting firm with offices in London, Moscow, and Vienna and which is heavily engaged in cross-border partnerships between British and Russian businesses. He is also a long-time friend of Granovskaia and was asked to join the Vitesse board of directors last year.
Chelsea is in very good hands with Bruce Buck and Granovskaia running the club in the interim, and based on her experience and success, Granovskaia is likely one of the first names on Roman Abramovich's shortlist for the full-time job as Chelsea's new chief executive officer.