As if the English
Premier League needed any further bad news about Chelsea’s flying start to the
season, but rival clubs can now cheer themselves with the news that big spending
Blues billionaire owner Roman Abramovich has just doubled the size of his
piggy bank.

Abramovich, as the
highest profile Russian businessman and oligarch of those spreading their wings in the
west, has cut a deal with the Kremlin to sell off his entire oil holdings in
Sibneft for a colossal $US13.1 billion, which practically doubles his fortune to an
estimated 15.9 billion pounds. The deal hands back to Russia control over one third of its oil output, according to
today’s Independent.

Already the richest
man in England, the sale will send an even greater shudder through the
corridors of power in the EPL and the Football Association that Abramovich may now
plough even more prodigious amounts into the London club in his efforts to make Chelsea the No. 1 club in world
football. But despite his vast outlays, until
Chelsea wins the Champions League no amount of English silverware
can justify such a claim.

The Independent reports that in what is “Russia’s largest
corporate deal to date, he and his associates sold their controlling
stake in the oil giant, Sibneft, to
the Kremlin-controlled energy behemoth, Gazprom, for $13.1bn.”

The paper goes on to
report: “Russian media called the transaction ‘his best ever’
reminding the long-suffering Russian public that Sibneft was sold for just
$100m in 1996 – eventually ending up in the hands of Mr Abramovich and his
associates.”

Ever since
Abramovich came out of nowhere in 2003 to buy Chelsea and the notoriety by
which he came via his original fortune, speculation has been constant that
Abramovich wanted to escape the fate of other oligarchs who have fallen foul
of the Kremlin, and would look to an orderly liquidation of his Russian
interests. At the same time he was
shifting his wealth into the west via assets such as Chelsea, which is clearly
only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his business portfolio.

Now it seems even
his phalanx of armed guards will be greatly relaxed that their football loving boss
has got the Kremlin onside!

Peter Fray

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