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22 Jun, 2022 09:50

Russian director exits Chelsea amid sweeping post-Abramovich changes

Marina Granovskaia is leaving Chelsea after more than a decade of service
Russian director exits Chelsea amid sweeping post-Abramovich changes

Chelsea have announced the departure of director Marina Granovskaia, one of the key figures of the Roman Abramovich era, as the shake-up continues at Stamford Bridge under the club’s new American owners.

Reports in recent days had widely tipped Granovskaia to leave her role, and the Blues confirmed on Wednesday that she would be exiting amid a series of leadership changes.

New US owner Todd Boehly, part of the consortium including Clearlake Capital which completed its takeover last month, will step in until a full-time replacement for Granovskaia can be found.

“Boehly will operate as interim sporting director until the Club names a full-time replacement, continuing the Club’s work towards its targets during the current transfer window,” the statement said.

“Chelsea FC and Ms. Granovskaia have agreed that she will remain available to Boehly and the Club for the duration of the current transfer window, to the extent required to support the transition.”

Boehly added a message of thanks to Granovskaia “for her many years of excellent service,” saying that Chelsea “wish her all the best in her future ventures.”

The statement confirmed that Boehly had been made chairman of the Chelsea board, effective immediately, while a host of other appointments were named which include members of the consortium which has taken over at Stamford Bridge.

Granovskaia’s departure comes after it was announced this week that long-time Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck would be stepping down from his role.

Both Buck and Granovskaia were integral figures during the 19-year tenure of Russian billionaire Abramovich as owner.

In particular, Russian-Canadian Granovskaia was widely described as running the club on behalf of Abramovich in recent years.

In the process, she earned a reputation as a highly respected operator in transfer and sponsorship dealings, and was regarded as among the most powerful women in world football.

A graduate of Moscow State University, Granovskaia was formally appointed to the Chelsea board in 2013, having already served as a representative for Abramovich in London. She previously worked for the Russian billionaire at Sibneft and Millhouse Capital. 

Something of an enigmatic figure, Granovskaia rarely gave interviews, but was frequently seen at player unveilings upon the completion of transfer deals.

Last season, the 47-year-old was awarded the prestigious ‘Best Club Director’ in European football accolade at the Golden Boy awards organized by Italian newspaper Tuttosport.

Elsewhere, she has been described as an “uncompromising but cultured” operator by those who have experience of working with her.  

Boehly and his Clearlake Capital partners completed their £4.25 billion ($5.2 billion) takeover of Chelsea last month after Abramovich had put the club up for sale in early March, shortly before he was sanctioned by the UK government for alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Under Abramovich, Chelsea enjoyed by far the most successful spell in club history, winning five Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns, among a host of other prizes.

Boehly, who is also co-owner of baseball team the LA Dodgers, is already seen as taking a more hands-on approach with his running of the London club.

The 48-year-old is believed to have been directly involved in discussions surrounding a loan move for Romelu Lukaku back to Inter Milan. The Belgian forward underwhelmed last season following his return to Stamford Bridge for a club record fee of almost £100 million.

In a message to fans confirming the board changes on Wednesday, Boehly claimed that “as custodians of Chelsea FC, we now begin executing our long-term vision and plan for the Club, creating an outstanding experience for its passionate, loyal fans, and continuing to challenge for top honours in line with Chelsea FC’s decorated history.”

“We look forward to backing [men’s manager] Thomas Tuchel, [women’s manager] Emma Hayes and their teams, and will provide proactive, unbending support to make Chelsea’s loyal fans and our partners proud,” it added.

Chelsea fans will hope that support now steps up a gear as they pursue key transfer targets for the new season.