Chelsea director targeted in ‘record’ sanctions
The UK government has targeted Chelsea football club director Eugene Tenenbaum in its latest round of anti-Russian sanctions, slapping an asset freeze on the man it described as one of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s “closest business associates.”
Unveiling its latest anti-Russian sanctions, the British government named Tenenbaum and fellow businessman David Davidovich as facing financial restrictions on assets estimated to total up to £10 billion ($13.7 billion), which it said was “the largest asset freeze action in UK history.”
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss claimed that the step was designed to “tighten the ratchet” on Russian President Vladimir Putin and targeted figures who are allegedly in “the circle of people closest to the Kremlin.”
The move follows more sanctions placed on Abramovich by Jersey earlier this week.
The UK statement said corporate filings showed that Tenenbaum took control of Ervington Investments Limited, an Abramovich-linked investment company, immediately after Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24.
Also sanctioned was Davidovich, whom the UK government noted has been described by Forbes as “Abramovich’s much lower profile right-hand man.” Davidovich has been hit with an asset freeze and travel ban.
The Ukraine-born Tenenbaum has been on the Chelsea board for 19 years and has been pictured at Stamford Bridge alongside Abramovich.
Abramovich himself was slapped with UK sanctions on March 10 for his alleged links to President Putin, after the billionaire had already announced he would sell Chelsea.
Asked about the latest sanctions on Friday, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said they would not serve as a distraction for the team as it prepares for an FA Cup semifinal against Crystal Palace this weekend.
“I saw it yesterday in the news and there is not much more about it. For us, I don’t know the implications and what it means for the club right now,” Tuchel told reporters.
“Right now, it’s not a further distraction. It’s just one more of the same kind. We still hope that things will calm down in the process with the government.”
The sale of Chelsea is being managed by US merchant bank Raine Group, with four feasible bids said to be under consideration as the process approaches a conclusion in what could be a record-breaking £3 billion ($3.92) deal.
Three US-based bids are in the running alongside one UK-led consortium.
Key American figures include LA Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly as part of one offer, the Chicago Cubs-owning Ricketts family in a rival bid, and competition from a consortium including Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca.
The UK-based bid to take over at Stamford Bridge involves British tycoon Jonathan Goldstein, Sir Martin Broughton and Lord Sebastian Coe.
A takeover could be completed by the end of the month, although the green light will be required by the Premier League and UK government.
Abramovich will not see any of the profits, having previously vowed to donate “net proceeds” to victims of the conflict in Ukraine.
Chelsea manager Tuchel said on Friday that he was not party to the discussions and suggested that the background activity was not a significant distraction for the team.
“I heard that talks are ongoing with the government. I’m still not involved, which I’m glad about, because we have a lot to focus on here. We hope that things will be sorted out as soon as possible to have clarity,” Tuchel said.
“From my point, and from the training ground, I can tell you that it’s far less a distraction than you maybe think because of the amount of headlines or if you see it on TV as breaking news, but in here it doesn’t change a thing.”
Chelsea saw their reign as European champions come to an end at the hands of Real Madrid on Tuesday, despite the London club coming close to pulling off a sensation comeback before falling to a 5-4 aggregate defeat.
The Blues are still chasing FA Cup glory and meet London rivals Crystal Palace in the last four of the competition at Wembley on Sunday.
In the Premier League, Chelsea are well placed for a top four finish and Champions League qualification for next season, lying third in the table, more than 10 points off title-chasing Liverpool and Manchester City but still five points clear of fourth-placed Tottenham.