Roman Abramovich’s London empire falls apart as sanctions take hold

The oligarch is also unable to sell his stake in Evraz, his largest listed asset prior to the conflict. Shares in the company, which was sanctioned by the UK in May, had fallen 87 percent this year before being frozen shortly after it entered the government list.

Abramovich invested heavily in London after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Abramovich invested heavily in London after the fall of the Soviet Union. Recognition:Getty Images

According to Bloomberg’s wealth index, Abramovich now has a net worth of about $10.7 billion, down 40.5 percent this year.

Rebuild somewhere else

“Even in the unlikely scenario that sanctions are lifted, it will be very difficult for him to find a way back into Britain and the European Union,” said Liana Semchuk, a Eurasia intelligence analyst at consultancy Sibylline in London. “He may need to rebuild his empire elsewhere.”

Abramovich began acquiring his London investments in the early 2000s after amassed a fortune selling privatized assets from the former Soviet Union, including oil giant Sibneft.

In late 2001 he established the London office of his family office, Millhouse, and sent his children to school in England. He also bought a penthouse in London, an estate in Sussex and houses in Belgravia. His visits to the UK became more frequent after he bought Chelsea the same year he sold the bulk of his aluminum fortune to fellow oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

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“He revolutionized football because he was the first foreign owner to meddle with a football club as a trophy asset,” said Kieran Maguire, lecturer in football finance at Liverpool University. “He set the tone for what followed.”

Outside the UK, Abramovich’s assets include homes in France and Russia, as well as superyachts and private jets, which are now the subject of litigation in the US over alleged sanctions violations. In addition, he provided most of the $6 billion behind Concord Management, which he used to invest in more than 100 hedge funds and private equity firms that were struggling to exit his capital.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been investigating Concord, focusing in part on how Abramovich’s associates used offshore shell companies to make these investments New York Times reported Tuesday, citing people close to the company. The separate investigation is at an early stage and no charges may result, the newspaper said.

Safer waters

Abramovich moved two of his yachts to Turkish waters after the invasion to avoid possible seizures of assets in Europe. He has also been house-hunting on Dubai’s exclusive Palm Jumeirah this year, people familiar with the matter said, while his private jets have stayed in Dubai or Moscow since March.

Abramovich moved two of his yachts to Turkish waters after the invasion to avoid possible seizures of assets in Europe

Abramovich moved two of his yachts to Turkish waters after the invasion to avoid possible seizures of assets in EuropeRecognition:Getty

At the beginning of the war, Abramovich met with Putin and received presidential approval to continue peace talks, two people with knowledge of the situation said. Abramovich is said to have initially been optimistic about the prospects of an agreement, despite suffering an alleged poisoning attack after talks in Kyiv in early March.

Talks subsequently stalled, although the countries have made diplomatic progress and reached an agreement last month to shore up global food supplies.

“The role he took in the peace talks showed how much he had to lose for his investments in the UK and Europe,” Semchuk said. “It was risky and at the same time it confirmed that he had close ties to Putin because he was one of the trusted people who took part in the talks.”

Abramovich has spent the past decade building investments in smaller London-listed companies, including clean fuel technology companies Velocys and AFC Energy.

citizen of the world

He began reversing some of those bets after facing delays in extending his UK visa in 2018. Abramovich received Israeli citizenship that year and shelved plans for a new Chelsea stadium. In 2021, he became a Portuguese citizen under a law that provided naturalization for descendants of Sephardic Jews who were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal has opened an investigation into the decision.

Back in London, he appeared less frequently at Chelsea games as the club had no record of Abramovich using corporate hospitality boxes from 2018 to 2021.

“I think he initially thought it would be a little fun owning the club,” Maguire said. “It was striking how the relationship has changed over the past four or five years.”

Meanwhile, Chelsea progressed without Abramovich, beating Everton 1-0 in the opening game of English Premier League on Saturday. It will have its first home game on August 14 at Stamford Bridge.

“He is now even more dependent on Putin as sanctions are directing him back to Russia.”

Abramovich acquired his mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens – near the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – in 2009 for around £90million. He has since completed extensive renovations to the former Soviet embassy, ​​including refilling the underground swimming pool to create more staff space.

On a weekday afternoon there was little sign of activity in the house other than a gardener in green overalls watering flowers near the entrance. There were no vehicles parked along the sweeping stone driveway. Unlike neighboring properties, all curtains and blinds were fully closed.

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“The sanctions should create dissatisfaction among oligarchs like Abramovich and make them put pressure on Putin,” said Semchuk of Sibylline. But with London closed to him, “he’s now even more dependent on Putin as sanctions steer him back to Russia.”

Bloomberg

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Brian Lowry

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