Football: Abramovich handed Chelsea manager control of business on day of Ukraine invasion
LONDON (REUTERS) – Russian businessman Roman Abramovich transferred a company he controlled with tens of millions of dollars in investments to a manager at English soccer club Chelsea on the day Russia invaded. Ukraine, according to documents filed in the UK.
It was the second time Chelsea owner Abramovich had transferred assets to a close associate before Britain and the European Union imposed sanctions on him this month.
After Britain was initially slower than the United States and the European Union in imposing sanctions following the February 24 invasion, British lawmakers complained that the government was giving the oligarchs time to move their assets out of the country before restrictions are announced.
Abramovich did not respond to requests for comment left with Chelsea and their spokesperson. A British government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Abramovich, 55, became one of Russia’s most powerful entrepreneurs, mainly in oil and aluminum, in the aftermath of the chaotic breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Forbes last month estimated his worth net worth more than US$13 billion (S$17.6 billion).
Britain and the European Union have imposed sanctions such as asset freezes on Abramovich and hundreds of Russian individuals and entities, targeting people accused of supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Abramovich denied having close ties to Putin.
A Reuters analysis of documents filed by the companies in London and Amsterdam showed Abramovich was previously listed as a “beneficial owner” of Cypriot company Ervington Investments Limited. The company has invested in at least eight companies, including top Russian search engine Yandex, according to filings.
On February 24, Eugene Tenenbaum, a Chelsea manager who is described on the club’s website as one of Abramovich’s “closest associates”, took full control of Ervington, according to a filing filed with the London Stock Exchange. Neither Britain, the EU, nor the US imposed sanctions on Tenenbaum.
Tenenbaum said in a statement to Reuters that his company purchased Ervington Investments from a trust of which Abramovich and his children were previously beneficiaries. He said the purchase from the trust, called Norma Investments, complied with laws and regulations. Tenenbaum declined to say how much he paid for the participation.
“Ervington is a company I’ve worked with for many years,” he said. “I know the company’s investments and employees well, and the purchase of Ervington gives me the opportunity to continue to work with this company, under my control and for the benefit of myself and the employees.”
London-based lawyers said the move meant assets held by Ervington would not be subject to the freeze imposed on Abramovich’s other assets.
Abramovich has ceded control of two companies to associates since the war began, according to company filings.
Also on the first day of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which Moscow calls a special operation, Abramovich transferred Norma Investments to another associate, David Davidovich, according to documents filed by the British companies. Norma’s transfer was first reported by The Wall Street Journal and was confirmed in filings.
Reuters could not immediately reach Davidovich for comment.