Roman Abramovich has slapped a £3bn price tag on Chelsea Football Club as the Russian tycoon prepares to end his near-two decade ownership of the winners of the Club World Cup.
Sky News has learnt that Mr Abramovich’s advisers at The Raine Group were expected to issue letters to prospective bidders on Wednesday, with a deadline set for indicative bids in mid-March.
Sources close to the process said that as many as eight multibillionaires were being sounded out about their appetite to buy the club at a time when Mr Abramovich faces the possibility of being sanctioned by the UK government after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian is said to have turned down an offer of £2.5bn for the club from an unidentified third party earlier this week, with bids of £3bn or more expected to be taken seriously.
Among those who have expressed an interest in buying Chelsea in the past are the Ineos tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe and Todd Boehly, an American businessman, although it was unclear whether either remained interested in a deal.
Several of the parties contacted by Raine are understood to be from the US, with others from Asia.
Under Abramovich’s ownership, Chelsea have won the Champions League twice, the Premier League and the FA Cup five times
On Tuesday, Hansjorg Wyss, a Swiss tycoon, claimed publicly that he and three other prospective bidders had been invited to consider offers for the club.
Mr Abramovich’s bankers are keen to complete a deal quickly and potentially as soon as May, according to one insider.
Questions remain, however, about the viability of a transaction against the current geopolitical backdrop, with Mr Abramovich – who has long-denied links to the Putin regime – reported to also be putting his London property portfolio up for sale.
The issue of Mr Abramovich’s links to the Russian state was raised by Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, amid pressure for tougher sanctions against Russian oligarchs.
Chelsea’s parent company carries roughly £1.5bn in debt arising from a loan made by Mr Abramovich, meaning its equity value is also likely to be in the region of £1.5bn.
One source said it was conceivable that the owner might seek to donate the proceeds from a sale to charitable causes, having said at the weekend that he wanted to entrust the “care and stewardship” of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
That plan appeared to run into difficulty when the Charity Commission said it would scrutinise the proposal and a number of the trustees were reported to be uneasy at the idea.
However, the move to hand the club to its foundation has not been abandoned and is likely to continue to be worked on alongside the sale.
In his weekend statement, Mr Abramovich said he had “always viewed my role as a custodian of the club, whose job it is ensuring that we are as successful as we can be today, as well as build for the future”.
One person close to the club said the decision to sell was “the right thing to do [in the current circumstances]” and said Mr Abramovich was keen to ensure a clean transition to a new owner who would be an appropriate steward of Chelsea.
Mr Abramovich has owned Chelsea since 2003, and has ploughed unprecedented financing into the Stamford Bridge side in order to deliver consistent footballing success.
Under his ownership, Chelsea have won the Champions League twice, the Premier League and FA Cup five times and a significant number of other trophies.
Neither Chelsea nor a spokesman for Mr Abramovich responded to a request for comment.