Abramovich ‘lieutenants’ offered chance to keep running Chelsea – report
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck and club director Marina Granovskaia could both remain at Stamford Bridge after owner Roman Abramovich’s imminent departure, according to reports.
Buck and Granovskaia are said to have been offered the chance to keep their jobs by the consortium led by US financier Todd Boehly, which is the frontrunner to buy the Stamford Bridge club.
The Financial Times says an offer to Buck and Granovskaia “has not been formally agreed and one or both of the pair could choose to walk away,” but that the duo have the opportunity to remain as part of a set-up which would leave the existing hierarchy at Chelsea “largely unchanged.”
The American Buck, 76, was installed as Chelsea chairman just months after Abramovich bought the club in 2003, having advised the Russian businessman during his purchase of the club.
The Russian-Canadian Granovskaia, 47, joined the Chelsea board in 2013 after serving as a representative for Abramovich at the club.
She formerly worked with Abramovich at oil giant Sibneft and is seen as among his most trusted lieutenants.
Granovskaia in particular has been praised as a shrewd and widely-respected operator in the transfer market who has been integral to Chelsea’s success down the years.
Buck is a more divisive figure among the Blues fanbase and has faced personal criticism over the ill-fated European Super League plans last year as well as during the current takeover process.
Commenting to the Financial Times, UK MP Julian Knight – chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee – claimed that “any continuity with the Abramovich regime at Chelsea is certainly an unsettling development.”
That is despite reports that potential buyers were under the impression that keeping the existing team in place at Stamford Bridge would strengthen their bids by ensuing continuity and minimal disruption to the club. Raine Group has denied that was the case.
Abramovich put the London club up for sale in early March before he was hit with sanctions by the UK government. The takeover process is being overseen by US merchant bank Raine Group, with a deadline to sign a deal set for Friday, according to the FT.
The bid led by Boehly, who is part owner of baseball team the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the clear frontrunner after being granted status as the preferred bidder.
However, reports on Tuesday indicated that there may be a late snag in the process over fears that Abramovich could reverse a previous pledge to write off a £1.6 billion ($2 billion) debt owed to him by the club as it could lumber Chelsea with a hefty tax bill.
Current UK sanctions prevent Abramovich from profiting from the sale of the club in any way. There are questions regarding if or how the money could be repaid while ensuring the proceeds ultimately go to charity, rather than to Abramovich.
There was another late twist to the takeover saga at the end of last week when UK billionaire Jim Ratcliffe threw his hat into the ring, with the petrochemicals tycoon still said to pressing hard to hijack the deal.
The consortium led by Boehly is still set to win the race to buy Chelsea in a deal worth around £3.5 billion ($4.4 billion). The other main contenders were a fellow US bid spearheaded by Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca, and a British-based offer fronted by businessman Sir Martin Broughton.