Chelsea undergo shock Russian takeover

A Russian businessman, Roman Abramovich, has agreed to buy the company that owns Chelsea in a deal which values it at nearly …

A Russian businessman, Roman Abramovich, has agreed to buy the company that owns Chelsea in a deal which values it at nearly stg£60 million, the English premier league club announced last night.

Abramovich agreed with Chelsea chairman Ken Bates on Tuesday to buy more than half the shares of Chelsea Village - the company which owns the London club.

Under the cash offer, the 36-year-old Abramovich, through his English offer vehicle Chelsea Ltd, has already agreed to purchase 84.9 million Chelsea Village shares at 35 pence each, just over half of its entire issued share capital.

"We are delighted to agree this deal to acquire what is already one of the top clubs in Europe," Abramovich said in a statement.

"We have the resources and ambition to achieve even more given the huge potential of this great club.

"This is a great deal for Chelsea Village, the club and its fans," Bates said in a statement.

"We have achieved an enormous amount over the past 21 years, building a fantastic new stadium and a talented team which is firmly established as one of the top clubs in Europe.

"In today's highly competitive football market, the club will benefit from a new owner with deeper pockets to move Chelsea to the next level.

"I look forward to working with Roman Abramovich to achieve even greater things.

Abramovich, a major shareholder in Russian oil company Sibneft, has a law degree from the Moscow State Law Academy and was elected to the lower house of the Russian parliament in 1999, according to the offer document.

However skepticism has already been expressed from many quarters including that off former Sports Minister Tony Banks.

Banks wants the British government to investigate the deal between Abramovich and Bates.

Chelsea supporter Banks told the BBC: "I want to know whether this individual is a fit and proper person to be taking over a club like Chelsea. Until that question is answered, then I'm afraid the jury is out.

"I would have preferred that the takeover of Chelsea had been done after these questions were answered. A sale has been arranged to an individual we know nothing about.

"Ken (Bates) has not let us down in the past but I'm going to ask some very serious questions to (Sports Minister) Richard Caborn," said Banks.

Losses at Chelsea almost trebled in the first six months of the financial year to the end of December 2002 due to high player costs and a "moribund" transfer market.

Chelsea finished fourth in the premier league last season to qualify for the Champions League.

Under Bates they have achieved some success in cup competitions but never seriously challenged for the title, which they have won only once, in 1955.