- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
The UK Government has finally given Roman Abramovich the green light to sell Chelsea to Todd Boehly, but has told the pair they must still await final approval from Portugal and Europe.
In a dramatic breakthrough following weeks of fraught negotiations, Whitehall sources told Telegraph Sport that an "agreement on a licence is likely within the Government". However, the insider added the deal “still has major hurdles to overcome” as Abramovich's Portuguese passport means approval is needed there and at the European Commission.
Despite Whitehall fears over a final hurdle, there is now optimism in the Boehly-led consortium that the process to buy the club is now nearing a conclusion and should still be wrapped up before the May 31 deadline.
UK approval for a licence amendment to approve the sale comes after Chelsea apparently agreed to legally binding guarantees that a £1.6billion loan in the club will not go to the Russian or his children.
Last week, Government had accused Abramovich of putting Chelsea at risk of "going under" by initially refusing the new sale structure, which involved the money being paid into a holding account. However, after "whack-a-mole" negotiations over the weekend, an agreement has been reached to stop the money being paid into Camberley International, the offshore firm linked to Abramovich. 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 £2.5b foundation, where the money from the Boehly takeover will eventually go.
Ministers are now said to be in intense discussions with counterparts at the European Commission and in Portugal "to provide them with the assurances they need to approve the deal" by the end of Tuesday. The Premier League is also said to be close to signing off the sale, having completed background checks on US investor Boehly, co-owner of the LA Dodgers baseball team.
'Everyone wants to get the deal done - but nothing is simple'
One Government source claimed there had been "non-stop work over the weekend by officials to get the deal done and ensure ministers' red lines over protecting the sanctions regime are protected".
The senior Whitehall insider added: “Everyone wants to get the deal done, but with the complicated nature of the deal and the Chelsea ownership structures, nothing is simple. We are working hard to assure our international partners who rightly want their own assurances on this deal and, of course, how the proceeds will eventually be spent. Time is rapidly running out, this deal has to get done by the end of Tuesday, otherwise major football deadlines may be missed and the club will be at risk."
The hold-up between Chelsea and Government was said to be because ministers wanted proceeds from the initial sale paid into an escrow account - a legal arrangement in which a third party temporarily holds the money - while they obtain guarantees over the foundation which Abramovich started setting up in March.
However, the Abramovich camp released two statements in the past fortnight denying he was reneging on a pledge to write off the debt. The Football Association needs to nominate clubs for Uefa competition by the start of next month. The Premier League meets on June 8 to hand out licences for next season.
Abramovich, who was sanctioned by the UK in March over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, last year became a Portuguese citizen, with associates claiming he had discovered his ancestors were among Jews persecuted in the country. The Russian billionaire, who also has an Israeli passport, had withdrawn his UK visa application amid a diplomatic spat between Theresa May and Vladimir Putin after the Salisbury poisonings three years earlier.