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Abramovich ‘plots’ to sell Chelsea, according to Sunday Times exclusive

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Nine years after Abramovich sued them for libel, The Sunday Times try again with Chelsea sale story

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Big “EXCLUSIVE” from today’s Sunday Times: “Roman Abramovich in multibillion-pound plot to sell Chelsea”. Does Roman have to “plot” to sell his own property? Apparently so.

Spoiler alert; here’s the last line of the piece, emphasis mine: “Chelsea declined to comment but a source close to the club said it was “not for sale”. Silver Lake and Raine declined to comment.” Silver Lake Partners are a US-based investment group, whose bid to acquire a minority stake in June was apparently knocked back. Similarly rejected was an apparent approach from Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest man.

So, the headline screams sale, everyone else is mum or is denying through sources. Of course that’s what they would say, you would say. It’s perhaps worthy to note that these Chelsea sources “close to the club” are so keen to deny it that they roused Simon Johnson from his holidays, even.

As far as the “EXCLUSIVE” itself, there isn’t much meat to the story. Chelsea have apparently retained the services of Raine Group, an “investment bank specialising in sport, technology, media and telecoms to oversee a strategic review”.

Companies hold strategic reviews for all sorts of reasons — reorgs, acquisitions, sales, mergers, etc — but the Times claim it’s with a view to sell, apparently because Manchester City hired Raine Group as well recently for a similar purpose. Except City’s owners only sold a minority stake (13%) in the club to Chinese investors, which is a move that Abramovich certainly could explore as well — and there were rumors of Roman seeking investment from China to help fund the stadium build, so that sort of fits. But none of that amounts to a sale of the club.

Speaking of the stadium, Abramovich’s move to put those plans on hold after the full extent of his visa issues came to light is of course used as supporting evidence, though Chelsea moved very quickly after that story first broke to deny any such intent. Abramovich has since acquired Israeli citizenship, which allows him to visit the UK (and thus watch his team play), but prevents him from doing work in the country. So that’s a situation worth keeping an eye on, but so far, it seems to have had no adverse affect.

In fact, after an idle few weeks in June, Chelsea have made some strong moves that certainly don’t point to Abramovich exiting the club anytime soon. We’ve appointed a brand new coach with the usual Abramovich brief of “entertaining football”, we’ve outbid Manchester City for Jorginho, we broke the world record for transfer fee spent on a goalkeeper, we’ve reassembled the Loan Army (stronger than ever with 40 likely to join), and we’ve held on to Hazard and Willian and Morata and almost all the rest. Chelsea could’ve easily cashed in on valuable assets this summer; instead we’ve added to them. None of that rules out Abramovich selling of course, but they aren’t standard moves one makes to get all their ducks lined up in a row in order to entice a bid.

We’ll see how (or if) Chelsea respond to this story beyond just the usual media channels. Nine years ago, the Sunday Times also ran a story about Abramovich exploring a sale. The Chelsea owner responded by suing the Sunday Times for libel. Presumably, the Times have stronger sources this time to risk running a similar story. Or maybe they’re just feeling lucky.

Abramovich is one of the longest serving owners in the Premier League these days, with 15 year (and 15 trophies!) under his belt. Here’s to the next 15 in both counts.