LONDON, January 18 – Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich is sounding out wealthy Gulf businessmen about selling Chelsea Football Club, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.
Citing Gulf sources, the weekly broadsheet said Abramovich’s representatives had travelled to Saudi Arabia and Dubai to elicit interest in the English Premier League title-chasers.
One unnamed source said: "Abramovich’s team have been out in the Middle East sounding out what interest there is in buying the club."
The report said there was no evidence so far of a potential buyer, while the club’s chief executive insisted that the Blues were not up for sale.
Since buying the club in 2003, Abramovich’s fortune has helped transform Chelsea into a side that has won two Premier League titles and reached the Champions League final.
However, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who bought Manchester City, has now replaced him as the wealthiest man in English football as the Russian’s wealth has dropped due to the financial downturn.
The list, compiled earlier this month by FourFourTwo magazine, estimates the Abu Dhabi sheikh’s personal fortune at 15 billion pounds, putting him ahead of second-ranked Indian tycoon Lakshmi Mittal (12.5 billion pounds), who has a substantial interest in Queens Park Rangers, who play in the second-tier Championship.
Abramovich is in third place with his wealth estimated to have fallen from 10 billion pounds to seven billion as a result of the current economic crisis.
According to the west London club’s website, during a meeting with Blues supporters Saturday ahead of Chelsea’s last-gast 2-1 victory at home to Stoke City, the club’s chief executive Peter Kenyon said: "There has been a lot of rumour and speculation surrounding Chelsea and the owner’s commitment to the club.”
"I can assure you on his behalf that this is totally unfounded and anything else you might read about this is rubbish. Chelsea is not for sale. The owner has not and is not looking to sell his interest in the club and he remains as committed as ever."