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Todd Boehly’s Chelsea takeover is set to receive the green light from the Premier League this week, as it emerged a former Unicef chief executive has written to the Government promising Roman Abramovich cannot benefit from the deal.
Telegraph Sport has been told that the Boehly group and Chelsea should receive confirmation they have passed the owners’ and directors’ test “imminently”, but the American billionaire and his consortium must wait to find out whether or not the Government will add its own, crucial, approval.
Mike Penrose, a humanitarian charity executive who first came into contact with Chelsea while chairing Soccer Aid, has been tasked by Abramovich to launch the £2.5 billion foundation for Ukraine, where the money from the Boehly takeover will go.
Penrose has claimed “lives are at stake” while ministers delay and, speaking to Telegraph Sport while on the ground in Ukraine, he insisted he would not have got involved if Abramovich or his associates would have input when the charity is eventually launched.
The Government this week signalled it is prepared to eventually use the foundation which Abramovich set up, but ministers want proceeds from the Boehly takeover to sit in an escrow account temporarily while it carries out checks and balances on the organisation which Penrose will head up.
Penrose said he had set out a detailed presentation to Government on how the charity will work, including promises that Abramovich and his associates will not benefit.
"No one who has any association would be employed to do anything," he said. "No one could receive any financial benefit from this at all. I've never met him. I've never spoken to him. They [Bruce Buck and Abramovich's spokeswoman] reached out to me because I was the CEO of Unicef UK, I was CEO of Action Contre La Faim CEO, I was the Global Humanitarian director for Save the Children, and chairman of Soccer Aid. They reached out to me to do this, so I have created this independently on my own initiative. All I've ever done is referred back and the only commentary I've ever had back from Chelsea or from others is that this looks like exactly what we want."
Penrose has submitted a "scoping document" to the UK Government, outlining plans for "the world's biggest humanitarian or conflict-affected charity". On his involvement in Government deliberations, he added: "I have spoken to DCMS and I've spoken to the various contacts. I've written my concept note completely independently of anyone else.
“My concept and my budget has been presented for the special licence now, in the hope that what I'm asking for will be allocated immediately so I can set this thing up and get it going to such a level that the government is confident. If I can do that very quickly, then hopefully, when the sale goes through, they can just transfer the money very quickly into the foundation. Then we can get going and as soon as that happens we can get money into Ukraine. The one thing I'm really worried about is the politics and communications around this when we can save a lot of lives. The longer politics are played, the longer the suffering in Ukraine.”
The Premier League test was never expected to be a problem for the consortium, who provided advanced assurances over Clearlake Capital, the investment firm who will hold a major stake in Boehly’s proposed ownership of Chelsea.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who attempted to hijack Boehly’s bid at the last minute, claimed that investment firms should not be allowed to hold stakes in Premier League clubs.
But it is understood that Boehly’s group, which also includes Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss and Mark Walter, who, along with Boehly, is a part owner of the LA Dodgers, has not run into any problems with the Premier League.
Boehly’s group are not involved in the discussions between Chelsea, Roman Abramovich and the Government over how the takeover will be structured to make certain that none of the money ends up with the Russian.
They must now wait to see if an agreement is found between the parties that allows the takeover to go through ahead of the expiry of Chelsea’s operating licence next Sunday, May 31.
Government sources strongly deny the suggestion ministers are responsible for delays in signing off the takeover. Senior Whitehall figures are understood to have asked Penrose a series of questions in response to his four page outline, which they believe needed more detail.
Describing how a record-breaking donation of £2.5bn will immediately benefit victims, Penrose said the focus will be on helping Ukrainian people and insisted he has never had direct contact with Abramovich.
“The quicker we can get this going, the quicker we can get experts on the ground who can make sure that the right inputs are made exactly as conflict changes in the right places to help the Ukrainian people,” he said.
While Bruce Buck wants to remain as chairman, at least for a transitional period, Marina Granovskaia’s position as a director has still not been decided.
Granovskaia will hold further talks with Boehly over her future and whether or not she stays on for either the short-term or the long-term in her current position in charge of transfers and contracts.
Boehly met Chelsea’s head coach Thomas Tuchel for the first time last week, but the German claimed the pair will have further talks to discuss his summer transfer budget and potential targets.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Granovskaia and Buck are among a management group responsible for working on the Chelsea sale who stand to share a £50million bonus once the Boehly takeover goes through. The club have not commented.