Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich is now looking to sell the team, ending ownership that began in June 2003.

The Russian oligarch stepped down from a position of leadership last week following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, turning control of the club over to trustees of Chelsea’s charitable Foundation.

Whereas Abramovich was unsure what the future held for him and did not previously wish to sell Chelsea, he has now decided to create a bidding war and will look to complete the sale soon.

“I have always taken decisions with the Club’s best interest at heart,” said Abramovich in a statement released Wednesday. “In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the Club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the Club, the fans, the employees, as well as the Club’s sponsors and partners.”

Roman Abramovich to Sell Chelsea

Abramovich’s plight was spurred by his ties to Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and leader behind the militaristic aggression in Ukraine. Despite Abramovich’s denial of these ties, England’s government exiled the Russian shortly after the attacks began, and officials have been calling for the seizure of his assets.

Even with the ties to Putin, Abramovich has been at the center of Russian peace efforts and will be donating net proceeds from the sale of Chelsea to Ukraine.

“I have instructed my team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated,” said Abramovich in Wednesday’s statement. “The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine. This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery.” 

The near-19-year team owner purchased the team for $186.9 million and loaned Chelsea nearly $2 billion during his tenure in charge but is writing it off as dedication to the team and love for the game as opposed to a financial burden.

Suitors Lining Up

The news of Abramovich stepping back and now looking to sell Chelsea Football Club has interested parties lining up to place a bid.

Chelsea is one of the most successful and profitable soccer teams in the entire world, currently boasting the title of European and World champions, following their successful Champions League and Club World Cup campaigns. They also compete in the English Premier League, the most competitive division of domestic soccer in the world.

One interested suitor is a former UFC champion and charismatic businessman, Conor McGregor. The Irishman took to Twitter to signal his interest, first posting a WhatsApp message to an unknown recipient that read “Chelsea for sale for £3bn,” then, in a new message, “Let’s buy it,” and a day later an animated video of him handling interviews in Chelsea gear and talking to Abramovich.

Other reports have indicated that a tandem of Todd Boehly and Hansjörg Wyss have already met with Abramovich and are preparing a bid. Boehly is a part of the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group, and Wyss is a former CEO of a medical technology company that is the world’s leading specialist in implants for bone fractures. 

Wyss currently holds stakes in NovoCure and Molecular Partners and has been said to be “among the most philanthropic people in the world.” The Swiss billionaire would want to take ownership of the club as part of a consortium.

The combined net worth of the two men is said to be somewhere around $11.4 billion, just under Abramovich’s $12.5 billion valuation. However, Boehly is reportedly not willing to meet the Russian’s $4 billion asking price.

There is also at least one other unnamed influential group that has made contact with Abramovich about potential ownership.

The Future of Chelsea

New ownership groups are always looking to make their mark after acquiring teams, but with Chelsea’s infrastructure, they will not have to do much to continue the club’s success. Chelsea has one of the best tactical managers in the world in German Thomas Tuchel, as well as an excellent Director in Marina Granovskaia.

Prospective ownership groups are said to be interested in retaining Granovskaia— a Russian-Canadian executive who has earned a reputation as one of the best financial merchants when it comes to player sales— if she cuts her ties to Abramovich.

Chelsea currently occupies the third spot in the English Premier League, holds a 2-0 lead over LOSC Lille with one leg to go in the Champions League Round of 16, and is in the quarterfinal of the Carabao Cup. 

The Blues will be in action this Saturday for a league match against relegation-stricken Burnley FC.