Former Unicef chief BEGS the government to approve Chelsea takeover


‘Lives are at stake’: Former Unicef chief BEGS the government to allow Roman Abramovich’s £5.25bn Chelsea sale to go through – and hand £2.5bn to a Ukraine foundation he will lead – amid fears the takeover will fail

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Todd Boehly’s £4.25billion takeover of Chelsea is reportedly set to be approved by the Premier League this week after the Government received promises from a former Unicef chief executive that Roman Abramovich will not benefit from the deal. 

A consortium led by the US investor have agreed terms to end the Abramovich era but there was ‘alarm’ among ministers on Monday that the deal was at risk of ‘falling apart’ over the oligarch’s alleged ‘refusal to agree’ to a proposed sale structure. 

With the final deadline for a deal to go through a fortnight away, negotiations hit another snag over the £1.6bn owed by Chelsea’s parent company, Fordstam Ltd, to Jersey-registered Camberley International Investments, a company with suspected links to Abramovich.

The government say they have been ‘clear all along’ that they will not countenance any deal that could possibly see some money end up in Abramovich’s pocket.

Former Unicef UK executive director Mike Penrose has been tasked with forming the new independent foundation to which owner Abramovich wants to donate all proceeds from the Blues’ sale.

But, speaking to The Telegraph, Penrose insisted ‘lives are at stake’ while the Government delays the process.

He also insists he would never have took on the role if Abramovich or his associates were able to influence the charity when it is eventually formed.

Todd Boehly’s £4.25bn Chelsea purchase is reportedly to be approved by the Premier League 


The takeover was back in doubt on Monday with Roman Abramovich refusing a sale structure

Penrose has submitted a ‘scoping document’ to the UK Government, outlining plans for ‘the world’s biggest humanitarian or conflict-affected charity’ and how it will run. 

He insisted he has never had direct contact with Abramovich, and revealed legal undertakings to ensure neither Chelsea nor the Blues’ current owner could ever benefit from the funds intended for the foundation. 

He said: ‘No one who has any association would be employed to do anything. No one could receive any financial benefit from this at all. 

‘I’ve never met him (Abramovich). I’ve never spoken to him (Abramovich). They [Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck and Abramovich’s spokeswoman] reached out to me because I was the CEO of Unicef UK, I was CEO of Action Contre La Faim CEO, I was the Global Humanitarian director for Save the Children, and chairman of Soccer Aid. 

‘They reached out to me to do this, so I have created this independently on my own initiative. 

‘All I’ve ever done is referred back and the only commentary I’ve ever had back from Chelsea or from others is that this looks like exactly what we want.’

Abramovich wants his loan to Chelsea’s parent company Fordstam to be repaid to Camberley International Investments

It’s understood ministers proposed that funds from any sale would be kept in a holding account, and released only once they are satisfied the money can go to a foundation to help victims of the Ukraine war.

Abramovich recently denied he was going back on a pledge to write off the debt but on Monday a government source suggested that ‘despite committing to all proceeds going to good causes in public, Abramovich seems unwilling to give the same legal commitments.’ 

A government source added: ‘Two big sticking points remain – where exactly the proceeds of the sale will be held, and what legal guarantees government will be given about the money going to good causes… a deal which would allow the cash to be diverted during the deal would be a breach of sanctions and is seen as a red line for ministers.’ 

Chelsea are operating under a special licence after Abramovich was sanctioned following the invasion of Ukraine, over his alleged links to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

That licence expires on May 31, with any deal requiring sign-off from ministers and the football authorities. 

Chelsea are operating under a special licence after Abramovich was hit by sanctions

A government source said they will continue to talk and work through the complexities of the takeover.

But there is now ‘quite serious concern in government that the deal may fall apart and that Roman Abramovich is ultimately willing to let Chelsea go under.’ 

They added that ‘a good chunk of the sale’ needs to be completed this week or next, with deadlines looming ‘which would either see the club booted out of European competition or the Premier League entirely.’ 

May 31 is also the final day for the club to be registered for European competitions next season, while the Premier League will meet in early June to grant clubs the licenses required to play next season.’ 

More to follow. 



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