Potential Chelsea buyers told they can approach UK government

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Billionaires interested in buying Chelsea Football Club have been told to approach the UK government with potential takeover proposals, after the sanctioning of its current oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich.

Fearing the threat of sanctions, Abramovich, 55, had been rushing to sell the club for more than £3bn, drawing interest from the British property magnate Nick Candy, the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, the US private equity billionaire and Crystal Palace shareholder Josh Harris, and the American part-owner of the LA Dodgers Todd Boehly.

However, the government on Thursday froze Abramovich’s UK assets, including Chelsea FC and a portfolio of luxury properties including a £150m mansion yards from Kensington Palace, west London, and a £30m three-storey penthouse overlooking Stamford Bridge.

Abramovich was one of seven Russians with close links to Vladimir Putin that the government added to the sanctions list in a move designed to dramatically increase pressure on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine. “The blood of the Ukrainian people is on their hands,” Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, said. “They should hang their heads in shame.”

Chris Philp, the digital and technology minister, said on Friday that Abramovich would be prevented from selling the club but potential buyers could approach the government with proposals to buy the club as long as the Russian oligarch would not benefit from the deal.

“As the licence conditions are written today, the sale would not be allowed,” Philp told Sky News. “However, if a buyer emerged it would be open to that buyer or to that football club to approach the government and ask for the conditions to be varied in a way that allows that sale to take place.

“To be clear, no proposal would be accepted which saw the proceeds from any sale ending in an unrestricted bank account owned by Abramovich. He can’t benefit from the proceeds of any sale.”

Candy, who with his brother Christian developed the luxury One Hyde Park development, on Friday said he was considering submitting a bid to buy the club form the government.

“We are examining the details of yesterday’s announcement and we are still interested in making a bid,” his spokesperson said. “Clearly this is a time of great uncertainty for all Chelsea fans. In our view, no one is the owner of a football club – you are the custodian of it for the fans and the community.”

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